While working for 3M as an accountant, Don Herfort had strong opinions about golf courses, leading the company's top executives to hire him to design and develop its employee golf course. Though he had no experience, he took on the challenge.
"Right from the start, I didn't think the guy they had hired to build the course knew what he was doing. The holes weren't laid out very well. The drainage was going to be a problem with the layout. It was like the whole thing was wrong. So I said so," Herfort said in an October 2008 interview with Minnesota Golfer magazine.
Word spread of Herfort's skill in designing 3M's Tartan Park 18-hole course, and he left the company to establish Don Herfort Inc.
During Herfort's 40-year career, he became Minnesota's most prolific golf course architect, designing more than 140 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and North and South Dakota. He was the only Minnesota-based professional to have passed the rigorous membership process of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Herfort, 86, died Monday in his Lakeville home from a heart condition.
"He wanted golf to be fun and wanted to make sure that his client's investment was financially sound," said Kevin Norby, a golf course designer and protégé of Herfort. "His large flashed-sand bunkers and undulating greens are still a trademark of his work."
Some of his most famous courses include Dellwood Hills, Indian Hills and River Oaks in suburban St. Paul; Como Park and Phalen Park in St. Paul; Superior National in Lutsen, Minn., and New Richmond Country Club, Cumberland and Rhinelander in Wisconsin.
Norby said he included Herfort's name in the name of his company out of respect for his mentor and partner of more than two decades. Norby is now the only exclusively practicing golf course architect in Minnesota.
One of Herfort's daughters, Paula Loyd, said she and her siblings grew with time to love and appreciate their dad's talent.
"Every day, there are thousands of people who play on his courses," Loyd said. "That's a pretty great legacy."
Herfort, who was born in Green Bay, Wis., on Feb. 6, 1925, loved cheering for the Green Bay Packers, doing sudoku, listening to music from the 1940s and dancing the jitterbug.
Herfort is survived by his wife of 61 years, Shirley, whom he met in Green Bay when she was a senior in high school working at a dime store. She said he always called her his "million-dollar baby from the five- and ten-cent store," after the song.
Herfort is also survived by two daughters, one son and 10 grandchildren. He is preceded in death by a daughter, Karen.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Washburn-McReavy Werness Brothers Chapel in Bloomington.
Tasnim Shamma • 612-673-7603 Twitter: @TasnimS