Arguably Minnesota’s finest male golfer of all-time, Tom Lehman (above) was a standout at the University of Minnesota who went on to win the British Open in 1996, and captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team in 2006.
20th century. A winner of numerous state titles, including four State Opens, and the 1926 National Amateur Public Links championship, Bolstad is best remembered as the top teacher of the game that Minnesota has ever seen.
Years after winning two Big Ten titles in 1927 and 1929 at the University of Minnesota, Bolstad coached the Gophers for 30 years (1946–76), winning two NCAA titles. He met and mentored many promising young Minnesotans over the decades, but none more promising than a 14-year-old girl named Patricia Jane Berg.
Bolstad was Berg’s coach throughout her Hall of Fame career. Today, 77 years later, Berg still holds the record for most majors in women’s golf ( 15).
Bolstad had left the University of Minnesota before Lehman arrived. But the two developed a lasting relationship after being paired together in the 1979 State Open. Lehman often turned to Bolstad for advice right up until Bolstad’s death in 1998.
“He was a golf guru before gurus were
cool,” Lehman was quoted as saying in 2001
in the book “100 Years of Minnesota Golf.”
Berg was born in 1918 and was such a versatile and tough little athlete that she’s remembered almost as much for being the quarterback on the 50th Street Tigers as she is for her golf career. One of her teammates on that neighborhood football team was a
guard named Bud Wilkinson. The same Bud Wilkinson who went on to star at the University of Minnesota before becoming even more famous as the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma.
At 17, Berg finished runner-up at the 1935 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Interlachen, her home course. Three years later, she won the tournament.
Berg also won the first U.S. Women’s Open in 1946. She won 57 professional and 28 amateur tournaments. Berg also was a founder and charter member of the LPGA, and served as its president from 1949–52. Later in life, she became a leading ambassador of golf mainly through her popular clinics. Berg was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Then there’s Lehman, who personifies perseverance and what it can do for a golfer. Lehman grew up as a self-described “hick” in the small town of Alexandria.
The first time he broke 70 came in the summer of 1972. He needed par on the closing hole at Alexandria County Club. And par is what he shot while wearing cut-off jeans, a muscle T-shirt and, of course, no shoes. He was 13 at the time.
Lehman needed a twist of fate to get him to the University of Minnesota. He was all set to join his brother, Jim, at Division III St. John’s University when he was paired with the Gophers’ No. 1 player, Miles Prestemon, during a summer tournament.
Prestemon was so impressed that he called the Gophers’ coach, Rick Ehrmanntraut, and told him to “check out this Lehman kid.” Ehrmanntraut invited Lehman to a mass tryout. Lehman was one of three to earn the right to be a walk-on for the Gophers that fall.
Lehman’s first crack at the PGA Tour was disappointing, to say the least. He made only 28 cuts with no top- 10 finishes in 74 tournaments from 1983–85. He spent the rest of the 1980s playing in Asia, South Africa and elsewhere. He also won the 1989 and 1990 Minnesota State Opens, but didn’t appear to be heading anywhere greater than that.
In 1989, Lehman was offered the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota. He almost accepted, but decided to keep pursuing his dream of making it on the PGA Tour.
He first had to climb his way through the Nike Tour. He did that, winning once in 1990 and three times in 1991.