MINNESOTANS NEVER HAVE ALLOWED LONG WINTERS AND short seasons to lessen their love for the game of golf. “In fact, quite frankly, it’s the short season that makes Minnesotans love the game even more,” says Tom Ryan,
executive director and chief operating officer of the 108-year-old Minnesota
Golf Association (MGA).
“Minnesotans love to be outdoors anyway. We like the hunting, the fishing, the snowmobiling, the ice fishing, the skiing and all of that. Well, once spring comes, the golfers are as anxious to get outside and play as anyone else.
“And when you can’t do something for so long, the minute you’re able to do it, you go full-go and play as much as you possibly can until you can’t play anymore.”
That’s been the case since about the time golf arrived in Minnesota with the founding of Town and Country Club in St. Paul in 1888.
Today, Minnesota has 508 golf courses, ranking 11th in the nation, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF). Eighty-seven percent are public-access courses.
The MGA has 80,000 members, ranking it as one of the 10 largest state golf associations in the country. In 2005, the last year the NGF tracked the number of golfers per capita, Minnesota ranked, you guessed it, No. 1.
In 2005, John Furin, from Hibbing, Minn., led the entire country by posting 572 rounds of golf. In Minnesota! A year later, he posted 638 rounds.
Again, in Minnesota!
That’s some kind of quantity.
COURTESY HAZELTINE NATIONAL GOLF CLUB
From Les Bolstad to Tom Lehman, Minnesota has been home to more of the game’s premier players than you may think
By Mark Craig
A fine player and teacher, Les Bolstad coached the University of Minnesota men’s golf team from 1946-76.
But the state’s golf history has quality as well. From Harry Legg, the state’s first dominant amateur around the turn of the 19th century, to legendary women’s golf pioneer Patty Berg to 1996 British Open Champion Tom Lehman, the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” always seems to have a golfer or two to keep an eye on.
Born in 1886, Legg was Minnesota’s first golf star. He paid 15 cents for his first golf club in the late 1890s and didn’t stop swinging until he had won a record 10 State Amateur titles from 1905–20 and the 1925 State Open.
Jimmy Johnston, born 10 years later in St. Paul, was 19 when he finished tied for 54th at the 1916 U.S. Open. After serving as a second lieutenant with the 337th Machine Gun Battalion in World War I, he returned to competitive golf and was the 54-hole leader over Gene Sarazen at the 1927 U.S. Open. Two years later, he won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.
Johnston was both competitor and friend to the legendary Bobby Jones. It was Johnston whom Jones beat 1-up to win the British Amateur during Jones’ Grand Slam season in 1930. When Jones won the 1930 U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., he stayed at Johnston’s home. The two of them passed time between rounds by fishing on nearby Lake Minnetonka.
Les Bolstad, born May 17, 1908, is probably the one person whose name is most associated with Minnesota golf in the