2023 MN Golf Hall of Fame

October 30, 2023 | 8 min.
By Warren P Ryan

In an overhaul of its vision, mission and criteria for consideration, the MGA/PGA Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame selection committee announced a record number of nine Hall of Fame inductees this August. They include: Gerald Gruidl, Don Herfort, Solomon Hughes Sr., Johnny Lakotas, Eleanor Lightner, Edward Manderville, David Nordeen, Jeff Sorenson and John Steiner. 

“The reimagined mission and selection criteria for election to the Hall of Fame opens the door to individuals not previously considered, and better reflects what the Hall of Fame was always intended to be—a place where the people with the greatest impact on Minnesota golf are forever enshrined,” says Tom Ryan, MGA executive director/COO and HOF selection committee co-chair.

Beginning with this year’s class of inductees—who will be inducted at a special spring banquet in May of next year—the selection committee will induct vetted candidates on a biennial basis.

Gerald “Jerry” Gruidl
Jerry Gruidl, 79, of Plymouth, Minnesota, enjoyed a competitive golf career that 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 earning the MGA Senior Player of the Year honors three times in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

Don Herfort
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 helped design and renovate 40 golf courses in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. A few of his original designs include Brackett’s Crossing CC, Bent Creek GC, Dellwood CC and Pebble Creek GC. In 1990, Herfort collaborated with fellow architect Kevin Norby on Superior National, Greystone GC and Little Crow CC, among others. In 1970, he was elected membership to the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the first Minnesota-based designer to be so honored. His final work was a collaboration with Norby on the renovation of Green Haven GC in 2003. Herfort passed away in 2011. 

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 Louis Open, the Midwest Open and the Des Moines Open in 1945. After relocating his family to Minneapolis, he and Ted Rhodes entered the 1948 St. Paul Open 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 participated alongside white professionals at the 1952 St. Paul Open, 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 struck the 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. Hughes, who passed away in 1987, was credited with opening the clubhouse at Hiawatha Golf Course to African-American golfers who had been denied access due to segregation. The clubhouse was renamed in his honor in 2022. 

Johnny Lakotas
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. Lakotas passed away in 1978.

Eleanor Lightner
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, Missouri, and she won a second Resorters title in 1925, defeating Mrs. Esther (Tallman) Freeman, of Willmar, Minnesota, 4 and 3. Lightner married and moved to Virginia, passing away in 1977.

Edward Manderville
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 and the 1987 MGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball 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 offered golf instruction to students at Anwatin Middle School. Manderville was a longtime MGA tournament volunteer, and he served on the MGA Board of Directors from 1990 to 1999. In every sense of the word, Manderville fulfilled the role of ambassador for the game of golf in Minnesota. Manderville passed away in 2018.

David Nordeen
As a competitive amateur golfer, David Nordeen, 59, of Jacksonville, Florida, 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 teaches golf instruction at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Jeff Sorenson
Jeff Sorenson, 44, of Blaine, who grew up caddieing at Edinburgh USA under the tutelage of a father sporting a scratch handicap, made his mark on the Minnesota golf scene by compiling an impressive list of professional championships, including five Minnesota Section Professional Championships in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2023, 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. 

John Steiner
One of Minnesota’s first certified golf course superintendents (CGCS), White Bear Yacht Club’s recently retired 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 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 him receiving the MGCSA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2021. Steiner, 71, lives with his partner, Michele, in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, and has four daughters and two granddaughters. 

Warren P Ryan

W.P. Ryan is the MGA’s communications director and editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. Prior to his communications career, he has worked at several golf clubs in Florida, Maryland and Minnesota "guarding the Titleists" and teaching the game to junior golfers. 

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