Spotlight: Totton Heffelfinger
In 1952, Totton Heffelfinger became the youngest president in the history of the United States Golf
highest sense of the word, as
“one who exhibits fairness, self-control, and is honorable in his game.”
Association up to that point.
Upon assuming office, he exhorted the attendees of the
USGA’s annual meeting:
“Let every one of us here today – and we are here because we love golf – pledge ourselves to see to it that golf is maintained as the greatest sport of the greatest sportsmen by seeing that golf is played according to the Rules wherever we contact the game.”
Heffelfinger was a dominant force in Minnesota golf, starting with his involvement with the Minnesota Golf Association, where he was a longtime board member and president. Through his effort and influence, a number of
USGA championships came to Minnesota, including the 1957 Walker Cup Matches, played at The Minikahda Club. Hazeltine National, the club he created, has hosted numerous professional and amateur championships, and Minnesota is only one of two states to have hosted
He talked of his love and admiration for a game where competitors would risk a victory by calling penalties on themselves, the true golfer being a “sportsman” in the
all 13 USGA championships. It is safe to say that wouldn’t have been the case without Heffelfinger.
While he loved the traditions of golf, he also wanted it to grow, and argued for additional courses and a more inclusive, less elitist game. One writer said of him that he was “the first unstuffed shirt I ever saw wearing a golf badge.” Shortly after he became president of the USGA, Heffelfinger said “there ought to be some thinking about another golf course” for championships in Minnesota. Less than a decade later, Hazeltine National was born.
In honor of his commitment to the game, the Minnesota Golf Association gave Heffelfinger the title of Honorary President in perpetuity, and annually awards its amateur champion a trophy that bears his name.
After the second round, Dave Hill, who
ultimately finished in second place, let out
his frustration in the press tent. While
he later said that he was trying to be
critical of the USGA for choosing a
course that was too young to host an
Open, his remark that all it lacked was
“ 80 acres of corn and a few cows” would
damage Hazeltine National’s reputation
and hurt its chances to fulfill its mission to
host major championships for many years.
Meanwhile, Tony Jacklin, who had shot 71
that difficult first day, stayed above the media
fray and won by seven shots.
The decade that followed was precarious for Hazeltine National, with financial difficulties endangering the club’s prospects for survival and the stigma of the U.S. Open impeding efforts to secure future major championships. It also marked the end of its formative era, during which Heffelfinger
Above: Billy Casper won the 1983 U. S. Senior Open, the first championship contested on a redesigned layout. Below: In the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine National, Champion Payne Stewart recorded 57 pars for the week, more than any other player in the field.
had dominated the club’s affairs. Change was afoot, nowhere more visibly than on the golf course.
The modifications were minor at first. Jones repositioned some tees to make the doglegs less severe and the dramatic slopes in a few greens were softened. The basic routing remained the same, however, even as the USGA and The PGA of America were courted in the hopes of securing future championships. Top players were also sought out for their opinions on changes that should be made.
In 1977, the last championship was held on the original course. The Women’s Open returned and the crowds were captivated by a young player in her first Open as a professional. Her name was Nancy Lopez and her play at Hazeltine National gave a hint to what was to come in her breakout year of 1978. In the Open, she fell two strokes short of a victory in the championship that eluded her.
Hollis Stacy had a game suitable to Hazeltine National and to the Open, and she won her first of three titles to go along with the three consecutive U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships that she had claimed.
Modifications to the Course After the Women’s Open, the changes to the golf course began in earnest. With the addition of a small amount of land and the elimination of the children’s course, Jones reconfigured the holes around the clubhouse, eliminating the doglegs on the first, ninth and 18th holes, and transforming the par- 3 eighth hole. It was on this revised layout that Lanny Wadkins won the one-day