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Continued: Sid Hartman: Hazeltine grew from Minikahda's roots

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 15, 2009 - 11:33 PM

It was in the early 1950s when Totton P. Heffelfinger, a giant in the grain business and one of the top officials in the Minikahda Club, came up with the idea of selling the very valuable land where the golf course was located across from Lake Calhoun and building a new golf club in Chaska that turned out to be Hazeltine National.

The historic clubhouse would remain, but the golf course land would be sold and, being in such a great location in the city and overlooking the lake, would raise enough money to build the new club in the western suburbs.

Heffelfinger worked hard to get the votes from Minikahda members to make the move. But he failed, and his group was stuck with the land it had bought that today is the site of this weekend's 2009 PGA Championship.

Heffelfinger, president of the U.S. Golf Association from 1952 to 1953, wanted to build a course that would be a host of major championships, which were becoming larger events. Minikahda had been the host of the 1916 U.S. Open and the 1927 U.S. Amateur (won by Bobby Jones).

There were many financial difficulties Heffelfinger faced before Hazeltine opened in 1962.

But if it wasn't for the persistence Heffelfinger and his partners, who went through with the opening of Hazeltine even though Minikahda remained, there wouldn't have been all of the big tournaments here.

With Heffelfinger's influence in the golf world, the first major golf tournament to be held at the Chaska course was the 1966 U.S. Women's Open.

Again using his influence as former president of the USGA, Heffelfinger brought the 1970 U.S. Open to the course that still needed a lot of development to be first-class. The difficulty of the course and the windy conditions escalated scores, leading to criticism from the golfers and a poor first impression.

"They ruined a cow pasture by building the course," said golfer Dave Hill, who was among many of the golfers who ripped the course and got national publicity by doing so. Jack Nicklaus didn't like the layout. Many of the top golf officials thought this was the end of Hazeltine as the site of major golf tournaments.

However, the turning point of Hazeltine might have been the 1983 U.S. Senior Open. The previous criticism turned to praise, and the course was now first-class.

Then came the 1991 U.S. Open, when Payne Stewart beat Scott Simpson in an 18-hole playoff. In tha tournament, several new revenue innovations were put in and the financial results of the event set new standards for the major tournaments.

Since then, Hazeltine has been host of the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur, the 2002 PGA, the 2006 U.S. Amateur and the current PGA, and it will be the host of the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Not many clubs less than 50 years old have produced a résumé of major tournaments.

Yes, the great Tott Heffelfinger and his partners made this happen. And while Hazeltine will bring a lot of golf notice to this area and make some big bucks, Minikahda continues to be one of the finest golf courses in the country -- but because of its size it never would have attracted the tournaments that Hazeltine has.

Twins 2010 opener

Twins President Dave St. Peter said that a National League team definitely will play the Twins in two exhibition games at the new Target Field on April 2 and April 3 to open the stadium, but at this point he can't reveal the team. ... With the eighth appearance of the Twins on the Fox network Saturday, they have appeared more times either nationally or regionally than any other major league team.. ... Current indications are that the Twins' attendance for the season will be the highest since 1992, when the club drew 2,482,428. ... The Twins expect to have a record 16,000 season tickets when the new stadium opens. They sold 11,000 this season.

Compare the records of the Twins starters in 2008 with this year, and you realize why the club has pitching problems: At this point in 2008, Scott Baker was 7-3 and had a 3.78 ERA. In 2009, he's 10-7, 4.54 ERA. Nick Blackburn was 9-6 with a 3.99 ERA last year, 8-7, 3.99 in 2009; Francisco Liriano was 3-3, 4.97 in 2008, 5-11, 5.39 now; Glen Perkins was 9-3, 4.07 in 2008, 6-7, 5.89 now; and then you have a positive in Kevin Slowey, who is out for the year. He was 9-8, 3.94 ERA a year ago, 10-3 and 4.86 ERA in 2009.

Jottings

Timberwolves President David Kahn was asked if he would have drafted Ricky Rubio as the fifth player in the NBA draft had he known all of the problems he would run into to get the Spanish star to Minnesota. "Absolutely," Kahn said. "He is 18. He is too young and he has too much value and he has too much upside for us not to have done what we did. I have been saying consistently: I recognize that if it doesn't happen right away, the worst-case scenario for us as a team is that we wait a year or two. In our sport there have been many instances where teams had to wait a year or two, not only for European players but other situations were really rewarded for their patience. Of course we would have done it, I have absolutely no second thoughts."

Timberwolves star Al Jefferson, who missed most of last season after injuring his knee, was asked how close he was to being 100 percent. "I think I'm 90 percent, I really think I can do contact work," he said. "I know for a fact that I will be ready for training camp. I will be 100 percent, nonstop, I'll go two-a-days."

Archie Givens, a former Gophers quarterback, is the new head of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Givens has served on the alumni board since 2002. He is chief executive of Legacy and Management Corp. in Edina.

The athlete in the family of J Robinson is not the Gophers wrestling coach, but his wife, Sue Rubens, 42, who does Ironman Triathlons. An Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run (marathon). Her best time is 10 hours and 14 minutes in the Florida Ironman in 2007. She has done three of them, and she qualified for the World Championship last year in her age group and competed in her age group in the World Championship in Hawaii last October. In 2008 she was the masters champion for her age group in Minnesota. She is now training for the Canadian Ironman Championship to be held in British Columbia on Aug. 30.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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