The Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame has announced the 2023 Class of Hall of Fame inductees: Gerald Gruidl, Don Herfort, Solomon Hughes Sr., Johnny Lakotas, Eleanor Lightner, Edward Manderville, David Nordeen, Jeff Sorenson and John Steiner will be inducted into the MGA-PGA Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame at a spring banquet in May of 2024.
The Minnesota Hall of Fame was established in 1987 to recognize Minnesotans for their outstanding contributions to the game of golf. A selection committee meets biennially to review nominations and select inductees.
Gerald “Jerry” Gruidl
Jerry Gruidl’s competitive golf career spanned five decades beginning with his qualifying for the 1960 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, where he advanced to the third round of match play, to his fifth and final MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship title in 2007. In between he would qualify for a dozen USGA amateur championships including four U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur championships, two U.S. Senior Amateur championships, a U.S. Amateur Public Links and a U.S. Senior Open Championship. His first individual state championship came in 1972, at the Minnesota State Public Links Championship, and a shared victory at the 1977 MGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Yet Gruidl would leave his mark in the competitive senior ranks by winning two MGA Senior Amateur championships, in 2000 and 2002, three MGA Senior Players’ (match play) championships in 2001, 2002, and 2004, and earn the MGA Senior Player of the Year honors three times in 1999, 2000 and 2002.
As an engineer at the 3M Company in 1965, Don Herfort found himself in charge of the construction of the Tartan Park Golf Course, the company’s recreational facility near Lake Elmo. The project launched Herfort’s 40-plus year career as a golf course architect, where he would have a hand in the original designs or renovations of 40 golf courses in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. In 1970 he was elected into the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the first Minnesota-based designer to be so honored. A few of his original designs include Brackett’s Crossing CC, Bent Creek GC, Dellwood CC and Pebble Creek GC. In 1990 Herfort would collaborate with fellow architect Kevin Norby on Superior National, Greystone GC and Little Crow CC among others. His final work was a collaboration with Norby on the renovation of Green Haven GC in 2003.
Solomon Hughes Sr.
Solomon Hughes Sr., an African American professional golfer born in Gadsden, Alabama, was a winning player on the United Golfers’ Association circuit in the 1930s and 1940s. The UGA was formed for black golfers in the 1920s who were barred from playing on the segregated PGA tournament circuit. Hughes won the 1935 National Negro Open at the age of 26, and would add more UGA wins throughout his career, including the Joe Lewis Open, the Midwest Open and the Des Moines Open in 1945. Several years after relocating his young family to Minneapolis, he and Ted Rhodes entered the 1948 St. Paul Open hosted by Keller Golf Course but were refused the opportunity to participate due to pressure by the PGA on local sponsors. At the time, the PGA of America had a “Caucasians only” clause, a relic from segregation-era racial laws. A few years later, Hughes and Rhodes would participate alongside white professionals at the 1952 St. Paul Open, thus becoming the first professional black players to compete in a PGA event. Thanks to the efforts of Joe Louis, who put a spotlight on the discriminatory practice, the PGA of America would strike the Caucasians-only clause in 1961. Because of Hughes’ trailblazing efforts in dismantling segregation in golf, a path was cleared for the likes of Rhodes, Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe and Tiger Woods to compete on what is now the PGA Tour.
Loquacious and confident, when Johnny Lakotas’ game was on, he felt he could beat anybody, and he was not shy about saying so. His first state title, the 1935 Minnesota State Public Links Championship held at Superior Golf Course (now Brookview GC in Golden Valley), was won with a two-bit (25 cent) putter he nicknamed “Old Stick in the Mud,” and a borrowed set of golf clubs and shoes. Years later, Lakotas wrote that beating Joe Coria in the 1935 semi-finals was his “greatest thrill in golf… and the happiest day of my life.” He would win the 1937 and 1939 State Public Links, as well as win more than a dozen city and regional tournaments, including the 1935 Resorters. At the peak of his game, Lakotas qualified for the National Amateur Public Links championship four times in 1936, 1937, 1939 and 1940.
Known as “Minnesota’s first women’s champion,” Eleanor Lightner, of St. Paul’s Town & Country Club, won the first state championship organized by the Women’s Minnesota Golf Association in 1915 in a match that went 19 holes against Marion Lanpher at Town & Country. Lightner would successfully defend the title the following year at Minikahda, defeating Mrs. W.A. McLeod, 3 and 1. There were no championships in 1917-1918 due to World War I, but Lightner would win her third and final state title at Town & Country in 1920, defeating Elizabeth Dean, 6 and 5. She won the inaugural Resorters tournament at Alexandria Golf Club in 1922, defeating Mrs. E.R. Morrison, of Kansas City, Mo., and she won a second Resorters title in 1925, defeating Mrs. Esther (Tallman) Freeman, of Willmar, Minn., 4 and 3.
Edward “Eddie” Manderville was a leader, mentor and friend to many in Minneapolis’ African American community. He was honored by Mayor Jacob Frey with the “Ed Manderville Day” on July 28, 2018. Manderville’s competitive golf achievements were many, including the 1988 MGA Senior Amateur Championship, the 1987 MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the 1983 MPGA Senior Public Links Championship. He qualified for the 1986 U.S. Senior Open and the 1991 U.S. Senior Amateur. Manderville’s innumerable contributions to the game included mentoring young and old alike. He conducted annual Rules of Golf workshops with Black Women on Course, a club without real estate of the MGA, and offering golf instruction to students at Anwatin Middle School. Manderville was a long time MGA tournament volunteer and he served on the MGA Board of Directors from 1990 to 1999. In every sense of the word, Mandeville fulfilled the role of ambassador for the game of golf in Minnesota.
As a competitive amateur golfer, David Nordeen earned First Team All-Big Ten honors in 1984 at the University of Minnesota, where he captained the men’s golf squad. He would join an elite group of amateurs by winning the MGA Amateur and the Minnesota State Public Links championships in 1985, and by successfully defending the State Amateur in 1986. As a professional, he won the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am in 1994, the Minnesota Section PGA Professional Championship in 1998 and the Minnesota Section Club Professionals Championship in 2002. As a senior player, Nordeen won the 2014 Minnesota Section Senior Match Play Championship, defeating two-time defending champ Don Berry in the quarterfinals, and beating Thomas Vizina, 3 and 2, in the finals. A Class A member of the PGA of America for a quarter century, Nordeen is currently employed at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
A Brooklyn Park native who grew up caddying at Edinburgh USA under the tutelage of a father sporting a scratch handicap, Jeff Sorenson made his mark on the Minnesota golf scene by compiling an impressive list of professional championships, including four Minnesota Section Professional Championships in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, three Minnesota Section Match Play championships in 2006, 2011 and 2016, the 2006 Minnesota Golf Champions and the 2009 Tapemark Charity Pro-Am. Sorenson, a seven-time Minnesota Section PGA Player of the Year, is the Director of Instruction at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn.
One of Minnesota’s first certified golf course superintendent (CGCS), White Bear Yacht Club’s longstanding golf course superintendent John Steiner has created a lasting legacy within the local golf community as a scientific turf agronomist, manager and mentor. Upon graduation in 1976 from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of science degree in Landscape Horticulture and Turfgrass Science, Steiner was hired as WBYC’s assistant golf course superintendent. Three years later, he was promoted to Golf Course Superintendent, a position he has held for 44 years. His proficiency with a microscope in diagnosing turf diseases and willingness to share his pathology expertise with colleagues and turf students alike, as well as his prodigious work ethic at WBYC, were just a few of the considerations in his being awarded the MGCSA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2021.
(info courtesy of MGA)