Fifty-three different players have won the Minnesota State Open since 1917. We celebrate the event’s 100th birthday with a look back at 10 fun facts.
Lucky seven: Joe Coria, the “curly-haired kid from Highland Park,” holds the record for most State Open victories: seven. His first came when he was a 23-year-old amateur in 1934, and he added six more as a professional from 1940-52. Coria finished runner-up an additional four times.
A bridesmaid, six times over: Ade Simonson has the distinction of six runner-up finishes. In 1959 he had a four-shot lead after 36 holes but took an 8 on the 10th hole during the final round and lost to Bill Waryan. Eighteen years before that, he plopped a shot from 60 yards away out of a divot to within a foot of the cup on the final hole. He made the putt but lost in a playoff — to Coria.
Wouldn’t go away: George Shortridge is the only player to win in three different decades (1966, ’81, ’93). He also twice lost on the third hole of a playoff, in 1985 (after taking a two-stroke penalty on No. 15) and 1988 (battling extra holes in 103-degree heat).
Repeat feats: Jack Burke (1919-21) is the only player to win three in a row. Eleven more have won two in a row: Coria (twice), Jimmy Johnston (1927-28), Pat Sawyer (1935-36), Les Bolstad (1938-39), Wally Ulrich (1946-47), Gene Hansen (1961-62), Dave Gumlia (1964-65), Dan Croonquist (1979-80), Mike Morley (1982-83), Tom Lehman (1989-90) and John Harris (1994-95).
Paid for medical expenses: Three-time winner Ron Benson overcame ailments during all three of his victories: He cut his finger replacing a shoe spike in 1972; he played with kidney stones and was hospitalized a day after winning in 1974; and he battled elbow arthritis and glaucoma in 1977.
Sharing in the 2000s: Edinburgh USA pro Don Berry is the last man to win a second title, in 1999 (he also won in ’92). Seventeen first-time winners have hoisted the trophy since.
G’days: Three University of Minnesota men’s golfers from Australia have walked away with the winner’s trophy: James McLean (1998), Ben Meyers (2000) and Yu Katayama (2008).
More than enough to buy a round: The first-year entry fee in 1917 was $5, with $200 in prize money going to the Red Cross war fund in the winner’s name. By 1920, Burke collected $250 for his victory with an additional $25 paid to the player with the lowest single-round score. The winner’s prize first went over $1,000 in 1968. It hit $1,500 in 1980, $3,000 in 1985, $5,000 in 1988 and $10,000 in 2000.
Didn’t need that putter: Rod Cook’s 19-under 197 in 2001 is the Minnesota State Open record by a landslide. That performance at Bunker Hills beat the previous mark of 13 under set by Wally Ulrich at Midland Hills in 1955. Cook shot an opening-round 7-under 65 and backed it up with a 66 in Round 2. With a five-shot cushion, he elected to try a brand-new putter for the final round, and needed only 23 putts en route to another 66 to seal the victory.
A traveling show: The tournament was held at various courses around the state (including Duluth, Mankato, Faribault and Rochester) from 1917-1979. From 1980-2008 the tournament was held at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids with the event known as the National Car Open (or “The Car”) from 1980-1997 and the Best Buy Open from 1998-2001. Since 2009, tournaments in odd-numbered years are held at various courses while Bunker Hills hosts every even-numbered year.