Above: Shortly after opening for play in 1962, Hazeltine National Golf Club hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 1966, the first in a long line of major golf championships. Left: Totton Heffelfinger (center, between the USGA’s Joe Dey and course designer Robert Trent Jones) founded Hazeltine National with a mission to uphold the traditions of the game and to host championships.
executed with precision.
At Hazeltine National, he was given the opportunity to create a championship course, but the property available to the course was slightly smaller than it is today and Heffelfinger wanted to have a children’s course on the premises. To accommodate Heffelfinger’s wishes, Jones placed the children’s course between the first and ninth holes and created a series of sharp doglegs in
Akey player in Hazeltine’s development, Robert Fischer’s involvement with the club extended for almost 50 years until his death in September
Knowing of Totton
Heffelfinger’s desire to create a course that could serve as a championship venue, Fischer arranged to have Heffelfinger meet with Robert Trent Jones.
It would not be the last time that he served as a bridge between the equally strong-willed founder and architect.
Jones and Fischer created an investment partnership to purchase land in addition to that controlled by Heffelfinger. Eventually their interests would be combined, creating the Hazeltine Investment Corporation, which controlled Hazeltine National Golf Club and substantial development properties around it.
A member of the original board of
the club, Fischer’s financial acumen
and persistence were essential to its
survival and success. After
Heffelfinger served as president for 10
years, Fischer succeeded him and
tackled a host of challenges.
The financial situation was
tenuous and the repercussions
from the 1970 U.S. Open meant
that renovations to the course
would be needed, even though
there were no guarantees that
future championships could be
Fischer played a critical role
in identifying the kinds of
changes that needed to be made to
attract the interest of the USGA and
The PGA of America, and was
instrumental in convincing Jones to
make them (and to do so under
favorable rates and payment terms).
He also set in motion the financial
changes that allowed Hazeltine to be
purchased by its members.
To commemorate his achievements on behalf of Hazeltine National, the annual member-member tournament, the Fischer Cup, is named in his honor.
Spotlight: Robert Fischer
the holes in the vicinity of the clubhouse. That decision would prove fateful.
An Emphasis on
Shortly after the course opened for play, Heffelfinger began lobbying to host championships. The first USGA championship held at Hazeltine National, the 1966 U.S. Women’s Open, was contested when the course was less than four years old. Patty Berg, the legendary Minnesota golfer, was both the honorary chair of the event and a competitor.
While Carol Mann, who had already won several tournaments during the year, and Mickey Wright, who carded the only under-par round the entire week, battled for the victory, it was ultimately unheralded Sandra Spuzich who came out on top. She birdied the 70th and 71st holes to clinch the win.
The next year brought the announcement that Heffelfinger’s specific goal, “to bring the National Open here,” was fulfilled with the awarding of the 1970 U.S. Open. Many of the players who would play in that championship got an early preview when the 1967 Minnesota Golf Classic was played at Hazeltine National, the only time a regular tour event has been held at the club. Lou Graham won, and the difficult course produced the highest winning score relative to par on Tour that year.
The original design by Jones stretched to 7,410 yards, with all four par 5s exceeding 600 yards, extraordinary distances for the time. The Minnesota Golf Classic was played at “only” 7,234 yards, but with more length to work with and given the USGA’s reputation for difficult course set-ups, it was feared that Hazeltine National would pose an extreme test in 1970. As it was, the playing distance was reduced to 7, 151 yards, but the 1970 U.S. Open was dramatic nonetheless, and proved pivotal in Hazeltine’s history.
Bob Rosburg, who won that 1959 PGA Championship at Minneapolis Golf Club (and who recently passed away just short of its 50th anniversary), was among the players trying to figure out the raw Hazeltine National layout and its doglegs – so many doglegs, Rosburg said, that Jones “must have laid it out in a kennel.” When the first day of competition came, the weather cooled and the wind howled and the scores exploded. Some of the best players in the game couldn’t break 80 and emotions were laid bare.