Why is the Solheim Cup Called the Solheim Cup?

solheim-louise-karsten

The Solheim Cup was founded by Karsten and Louise Solheim in 1990, to serve a the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup. Karsten, who died in 2000, at the age of 88, was the inventor of the modern golf club; Louise, who turned ninety-seven in June, was a major contributor to the success of the family business, the company that manufactures of Ping golf clubs. Both were committed supporters of women’s golf. Here’s a little about them:

Karsten was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1911. When he was two, his family emigrated to Seattle, where his father, a shoemaker, hoped to find the prosperity that had eluded him at home. A short time later, Karsten’s mother, who was twenty-one, died while giving birth to his brother, Ray, and a short time after that his father went to Alaska to look for gold. Karsten and Ray were left behind, in the care of separate foster families. During the next three years, Karsten lived first with a German family, then with a Swedish family. When he was six, his father returned to Seattle, remarried, and reclaimed his sons.

In the early 1990s, I asked Karsten about those years, and he answered vaguely, then changed the subject. Louise told me later that in nearly sixty years of marriage she had heard him discuss his childhood only rarely . “When I think about it, I feel very sad,” she said. “He must have felt really lost. His mother was gone, and his father had left him with a family that didn’t speak Norwegian, which was the only language he understood. When his father remarried and took him back, Karsten hardly knew what language to speak. They didn’t start him in school until he was seven, because he couldn’t speak English, although I think he would have learned better, and faster, if they had put him in school immediately. But he never talks about those days, and he never complains, and he doesn’t seem to have any bad memories.”

After school and on weekends, Karsten worked in his father’s shoe shop. He was unusually small for his age until a growth spurt in late adolescence, and to talk to customers over the counter he had to stand on a wooden box. After high school, he spent a year studying engineering at the University of Washington, paying his tuition with money he had earned with an early-morning paper route. He couldn’t afford to stay. The country was in the depths of the Great Depression, and his father needed him in the shoe shop.

A few years later, at church, he met Louise Crozier. She had been born in Spokane, and her mother had died when she was a month old, and her father had sent her to be raised by an aunt and uncle in Texas. She was precocious, and had learned read before she was four. When she was ten, her father, who taught science and business in a school district outside Seattle, decided he wanted her back. Louise didn’t want to go, but accepted the change stoically. “I remember that when I got on the train, a tear was rolling down my nose, but I held my head up high so that no one would see it.” She and her father boarded with another family for a year, then moved to the country, where he supplemented his teacher’s salary by raising chickens.

Shortly after Karsten and Louise met, they heard a sermon by a visiting evangelist, who was a grandson of the founder of the Salvation Army. The evangelist said that the ideal age for a woman to marry was eighteen, and the ideal age for a man was twenty-five. After the sermon, Karsten asked Louise how old she was. She said she was seventeen. She asked Karsten how old he was. He said he was twenty-four. Neither said anything else, but ten days later Karsten proposed, and six months after that—in June of 1936, just after Louise’s eighteenth birthday—they were married.

They spent their honeymoon in northern Washington. As they were driving home, Karsten’s Model T stopped dead. “I got down under the car, and took the pan off, and realized that the connecting-rod bearing was gone,” he told me. “Well, there was a farmhouse right there, and I asked the farmer if he had any bacon rind. He got me a piece, and I trimmed it a little, and I put that bacon rind where the bearing should have been, and I tightened up the cap, and we drove the forty miles home without any more trouble. Of course, when we got there, the bacon was crisp.”

What’s In My Bag, Part Five: Awesome New Putter

Daddy LLTony bought a new putter and told me he couldn’t miss anything with it. I tried it and couldn’t miss anything with it, either. Then Tony went on a golf-free trip with his wife. I asked him if I could use his putter while he was gone (and keep it if anything happened to him on the trip). He said I could, and told me where to find the key to his garage—unnecessarily, it turned out:

Tony's wife, Teresa, tied pink yarn to the key, to make it easier for burglars to find.

Tony’s wife, Teresa, tied pink yarn to the key, to make it easier for burglars to see. Like them, I spotted it immediately.

New putters always work for a day or two, but Tony’s putter worked for the entire time he was gone, and just before he got back I bought one for myself. Meanwhile, Chic—entirely independently—went to Golfers’ Warehouse, as an alternative to throwing himself off Bad Putters’ Leap, and, after trying every putter in the store, he came home with one, too. That made three of us, and I just learned that Dan now has one as well.

DLL

The putter is the Daddy Long Legs, by TaylorMade. The company has scientific-sounding explanations for why it works so well, but, for all I know, they make that stuff up. Whatever the real reasons are, it’s by far the best putter I’ve ever owned. It comes in two sizes—one with a thirty-five-inch shaft, and one with a thirty-eight-inch shaft—and I now own both.

Tony and his Daddy Long Legs, on the way to winning the senior division of a local amateur tournament back in July.

Tony and his Daddy Long Legs, on the way to winning the senior division of the Danbury Amateur, back in July.

There’s an old guy at our club who putts with an Acushnet Bullseye, which he recently re-gripped with electrical tape and what looks like tennis-racket tape. That’s ridiculous! It’s a piece of crap! It’s been obsolete for decades!

bullseye

Back in the early nineteen-nineties, I spent some time with the late Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping and the inventor of perimeter-weighted putters and irons. Solheim took up golf in the nineteen-fifties, while he was working at General Electric. He putted poorly, but he decided, eventually, that his difficulties were primarily the fault of his equipment. Most putters of that era, including the Bullseye, had heads that were uniform in thickness, so that the weight was evenly distributed from one end to the other. “Hitting a golf ball with one of those putters is like hitting a tennis ball with a Ping-Pong paddle,” he told me. “The weight isn’t in the right places, and it twists in your hands.” In his garage, he took a small rectangular aluminum bar and attached a lead weight to either end. He then attached a shaft near the center of the aluminum bar. With this crude club, he went to the practice green, and found he didn’t have to hit a ball in exactly the right place in order to make it go straight.

Patent drawing for Karsten Solheim's original heel-and-toe-weighted putter,

Patent drawing for Karsten Solheim’s original heel-and-toe-weighted putter, 1962.

Solheim made various refinements, and hawked his putters at tour events. His big break came in 1967, when Julius Boros won the Phoenix Open with a model called the Anser.  (The name had been suggested by Karsten’s wife, Louise, with the idea that the putter would provide an “answer” to Arnold Palmer, who had been unmoved by one of her husband’s demonstrations. Solheim had to leave out the Guararapes w to fit the name on the back of the putter head.) All modern putters embody his ideas about weighting, in one form or another. And the Daddy Long Legs takes those ideas to a new level.

Karsten and Louise Solheim.

Karsten and Louise Solheim and their wares, early nineteen-sixties.

Or so I assume. At any rate, I love my new putter and, no, you can’t borrow it. You can’t steal it, either, because unlike Tony I don’t keep it in my garage.

(Read Part OnePart Two, Part Three, and Part Four.)

What's In My Bag?

What’s In My Bag?