New Winter Air Program Links Gulfport and Minnesota

When a threesome arrived at Grand Bear's fifth tee, the temperature was 63 degrees. It was one degree back in Lester Prairie, Minnesota. That's where Jane Dietal is from.

"They were having 50 mph winds, there was blowing snow," Dietel said, describing the scene her kids called her about. "They had to call school off. They were home early. And we were on the course, golfing."

Dietel and her friends Marla Birkholz and Kit Radtke like to travel with their golf clubs.

"We've gone on a golf vacation every year for 20 years," Birkholz said.

This was the first time they all came to South Mississippi.

"Well we checked several places," said Dietel. "We checked Palm Springs, here and Laughlin, and decided here because it was the best package deal we could get."

The four day package put together by Hobbit Travel in Minnesota included a non stop flight from Minneapolis to Gulfport, four rounds of golf, a hotel room and a rental car for under $800 a person.

"It's nice, very nice," one of the female golfers said before hitting an iron shot. "And we lucked out on the weather."

A green behind the ladies was a threesome made up of their husbands. Dale Dietel was lining up a short putt.

"It's in the hole. Another two," said his playing partner Joe Radtke. Everybody smiled.

South Mississippi sunshine, warm weather and a birdie putt in February. It was a Minnesota golf lover's dream come true.

"The courses we're playing at are very nice," said Radtke, referring to the Oaks, the Bridges, and Grand Bear. The couples still had a Thursday tee time at Windance.

"The place we're staying at is very nice. We like to gamble a little bit, so that comes in handy. And the plane ride was good."

Sun Country Airlines takes the Minnesota couples back to their snowy homes on Thursday. They'll return to winter with some great South Mississippi memories.

The inaugural Minneapolis to Gulfport flight was about two thirds full. The second flight arrives tomorrow, and it's oversold.

"We're satisfied," said Sun Country's product development head Duane LaFleur. "We think there is a real opportunity there."

The four day package arrives in Gulfport on Sundays and returns to Minnesota on Thursday. The three day plan is a Thursday to Sunday deal.

The non-stop flights end April 6, 2003. But the Sun Country spokesman told WLOX News that they could resume this fall.