A hooray for Ray

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Ray Christensen doesn’t do many public speaking engagements these days.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Ray Christensen doesn’t do many public speaking engagements these days.

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He made an exception Monday.

Christensen, who retired this past season after 50 years as the radio voice of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, was in town for the annual Williams Fund Golf Outing at Albert Lea Golf Club.

While Christensen served as master of ceremonies, the usual contingent of University of Minnesota coaches and dignitaries was on hand, including head football coach Glen Mason, men’s basketball coach Dan Munson, athletic director Tom Moe, Big Ten men’s swimming and diving coach of the year Dennis Dale and athletes from three sports.

Christensen, though, was billed as the main man and was clearly the sentimental favorite. If you closed your eyes, you could swear you were listening to one of his broadcasts on AM radio.

While Christensen said afterward he doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, he’s no stranger to Albert Lea and the area. He served as grand marshal in an Alden parade two years ago and his grandfather, L.P. Jacobsen, farmed many years ago in Clarkston Township north of Alden.

Christensen said he made it a point to attend this year since he was scheduled to be here last year but couldn’t make it.

The area will always have a special place in his heart, he said, &uot;Partly just because of grandma and grandpa farming here. And Albert Lea is a pretty good Danish community. There are still a lot of Danes here.&uot;

Munson, whose Golden Gophers surprised many people last season, spoke with guarded optimism for 2001-2002, citing the need to stay healthy and start strong against some tough nonconference opponents.

After complimenting the food, saying it’s the best of any Williams Fund event, Mason stressed the need for an on-campus, outdoor stadium. Then he spoke with genuine optimism for the 2001 season.

&uot;We’re excited,&uot; said Mason. &uot;I think our program is in much better shape than it was a year ago at this time, and last year it was in much better shape than the year before.&uot;

Christensen was also given a key to the city by Albert Lea Mayor Bob Haukoos, though the mayor had to leave early and was unable to present it personally.

&uot;Maybe,&uot; joked Christensen. &uot;He left early to change the locks.&uot;

Christensen said the bulk of his time now is devoted to his upcoming book, &uot;Gopher Tales,&uot; scheduled to be published in September 2002.

In the first 10 years, the Albert Lea event has generated $83,000 in funding for the U of M Williams Fund Scholarship Program. The Williams Fund provides financial assistance to student-athletes participating in men’s athletics who maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average. The Williams Fund program plays a major role in attracting student-athletes by providing more scholarship opportunities.