Student's senior project par for the course

If it wasn't for the carts at Muskeg Meadows, more golfers might be forced to walk between holes. One teen is making sure that's not the case when the course opens this year.

High school senior Jimmy Baggen is working on providing maintenance for several of Muskeg's carts for his senior project, an idea that came to him because of his interest in golf and mechanics.

Baggen has been interested in fixing cars (and carts) only for a couple of years after hanging out with a friend of the family who works on cars and while he was working as a mechanic assistant for BW Enterprises. During his junior year "20% time project," Baggen was given a 1986 Dodge 350 Ram van that hadn't run in a long time.

"I actually got it for free and then sold it for something like a grand," Baggen said. "I replaced the fuel pump, replaced all the spark plugs. We ran it a lot to clean out the fuel line, and we replaced the gas."

Twenty percent time projects allow juniors to use school time to focus on a project in an area that interests them.

"One day a week, students can work on whatever they want. Jimmy worked on that van," said Assistant Principal Bob Davis. "They can explore opportunities and interests that we might not be able to provide. What I like about it is they have to find a project, find mentors. It's a lot of problem solving, which leads right into the senior project."

It wasn't just a passion for cars that led Baggen to fixing up vehicles; he also wasn't very happy with school.

"I was mad at school," he said. "I didn't like writing and stuff, so I was trying to figure out a way to get a job where I didn't have to do that stuff. And now I think differently, but I still kind of think that way, so I wanted a hands-on job. Plus, cars are cool, you know?"

Baggen's plan was to provide oil changes for the golf carts, but that changed as soon as four of the carts were moved from the course to the high school shop. The oil changes were all done, plus two carts had tires fixed and one has a true problem to solve.

"This current one, there's a lot going on," he said. "I did the oil change, and all the tires were good, but the brake pedal is sticking. We haven't been able to figure out why. We looked under the floorboard, we tore open the brake drums, and we lubed it up real good. We still don't know."

Despite the cart also leaking from the differential and leaking oil out of the back, Baggen is confident he'll figure out all the issues and get the cart fixed. When he's finished with the four carts and his senior project, he said he is going to fix up or provide maintenance to the other six carts owned by the course.

That's not the extent of his efforts to make Muskeg Meadows better. In a letter to Davis, Jeff Good, the Wrangell Golf Club vice president, detailed Baggen's volunteer service since June of last year.

"Jimmy has dedicated over 45 hours of volunteer time at Muskeg Meadows," the letter stated. "Throughout the busy 2021 summer golf season, Jimmy emptied the trash bins on the golf course grounds, and picked up golf balls on the driving range and washed them for reuse on a regular basis."

He also volunteered at large community events at the course, setting up and cleaning up at golf tournaments, and moving equipment into storage at the end of the season.

Kristy Woodbury, Baggen's mom, works at Muskeg Meadows and said that every cart owned by the course is used during bigger tournaments, along with 10 additional, privately owned carts. Demand is such that they run out of carts.

"It's incredibly helpful to have Jimmy servicing the carts before Muskeg Meadows opens back up for the 2022 season," Woodbury said. "Some of the carts he's worked on have had significant issues and they would have been out of commission if not fixed. The expense to have a professional mechanic come in and fix and/or service the carts would have been substantial if Musket Meadows didn't have volunteer help."

After high school, Baggen plans to attend the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau for a two-year program on diesel power technology.


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