While the weekend of September 7-8 marks a celebration among Hazeltine National Golf Club’s members commemorating their club’s 50th anniversary, the entire state should join in the toast.
Without Hazeltine, Minnesota would very likely be looking at 82 years and counting since its last U.S. Open. The Ryder Cup? Chicago is the closest that epic event would ever have gotten to our region. The PGA? We would have recently noted the 50th anniversary of the last time that championship was held here.
Golf’s biggest events don’t just land on your doorstep. Pebble Beach might be the only golf course in America that can simply wait for the USGA or the PGA to ask to hold its championship there. For Hazeltine, the competition with other worthy American clubs to land one of the big ones was tough enough in its formative years; after the course took a critical drubbing from many of the pros — Dave Hill in particular — at the 1970 U.S. Open, the golf world had essentially crossed Chaska off its list for return visits.
Few will ever know how hard Hazeltine worked to get back into the major championship game. It took years of course modifications, visits from PGA and USGA officials, letters back and forth from club officials to the top players in the game, and then more course modifications and a series of trial events before both the USGA and PGA began to really take the course seriously again.
All along, however, Hazeltine had two aces up its sleeve, and kept playing them until they paid off: a sprawling site capable of containing all the people, cars, media, corporate tents and collateral infrastructure that modern major championships demanded; and a dedicated membership that volunteered incalculable amounts of time to make sure tournaments were done right. In many ways, from scoring and transportation to merchandising, Hazeltine changed the way today’s major championships are run at all courses.
Hazeltine’s 50th Anniversary is a celebration of an irreplaceable statewide asset, nurtured with an enormous amount of love and effort by a very special membership. We should all lift a glass.