Wisocki returns as general manager at The Wilderness at Fortune Bay
March 8, 2023
TOWER— The Wilderness at Fortune Bay Golf Course is welcoming back a familiar face to serve as its general manager.
“It feels great—it’s the one course I would have come back to after 30-plus years of experience in this field,” said Joe Wisocki, who was tabbed as the general manager at The Wilderness when it opened for play in 2004. “This is really a homecoming for my family and me.”
Wisocki began his golf career in Kansas back in 1988 and has been contributing to the field ever since then with stops at prestigious golf courses throughout the country.
Fortune Bay General Manager and Bois Forte Business Development CEO Mayan Beltran is pleased to have the talents of Wisocki back at The Wilderness.
“We’re very excited to have Joe back and Trevor as well,” said Beltran of Wisocki and Trevor Rintala, who was hired as the new course superintendent this past fall. “He and Trevor will do some great things over there.”
After leaving The Wilderness in 2007, Wisocki had a stint at the now-famous Chambers Bay Golf Course in Washington, which eventually played host to the U.S. Open. He then served as the general manager and director of golf at Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club in California for 10 years before moving back to Minnesota to serve as the general manager and director of golf at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Willmar.
Wisocki is confident his experience gleaned at those courses will set the stage for a successful encore at The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. While the course has garnered many national awards over the years, 2022 was challenging as the greens were in rough shape for much of the year. Couple that with the fact the restaurant never opened due to the former chef leaving right before the season started, and it would be fair to say Wisocki has his work cut out for him.
“My first goal is to get the restaurant, food and beverage back on track,” said Wisocki, who is married and has two children. “We need to get it back to where it was.”
And by that, Wisocki means making it a sought-after restaurant like it used to be when fellow resorts on the lake would send their guests over by boat from Ludlow’s, the Vermilion Dam Resort, or Pike Bay Lodge to enjoy a fine dining experience with views to match.
“That’s goal number one,” said Wisocki, whose family will join him on the Iron Range after his son graduates from high school this June. “Our restaurant is not just a golf course restaurant, it’s a destination restaurant.”
He said an equally important goal would be working with Rintala to get the course back to its glory days. He understands you can’t control Mother Nature, but added that Rintala and his staff have been working hard since last fall to breathe new life into the course.
“It’s really comforting to have Trevor back,” said Wisocki. “That was a huge determining factor is why I came back. I watched Trevor grow in the industry, and with his mentorship under Vince Dodge, you couldn’t ask for more.”
Dodge, who is now the superintendent at Nemadji Golf Course in Superior, was the former course superintendent lauded for his impressive skill set and willingness to share those traits with his team.
“Our biggest goal is to work our way outwards, and that begins with the greens,”
said Wisocki. “We are going to get rid of the Poi and use a different seed than we’ve done in the past. We will then work on the fairways and tees and add an intermediate second cut to the rough, dethatch many fairways, and things like that.”
Wisocki said getting the course ready for play roughly two months from now will be a task he and his team won’t shy away from. He likes to use an analogy that guests who come here view this opportunity as their U.S. Open or Masters.
“This is a premier golf course at a premier designation,” said Wisocki of the fact that the course Is located on Lake Vermilion, which draws people from all over the country and the world, for that matter. “It’s up to us to deliver a memorable experience for them by providing exceptional guest services with amenities to match.”
For Wisocki and his team to achieve his goals, he knows there will be challenges along the way. However, he’s ready to face them head-on with 15-plus years of experience to draw upon since he left for Chambers Bay in 2007.
“I’ve always viewed coming back as this is going to be my legacy course,” said Wisocki. “There’s no moves after this one. My next move is into retirement.”
But long before that happens, Wisocki will work hard to leave an indelible mark on the Wilderness at Fortune Bay.
“I want people to know The Wilderness is a great place to work with opportunity for growth,” said Wisocki. “I lead by example in my work. I always say that I manage by wandering around. I am not a micromanager, but I’ll jump in and help anywhere I can.”
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