Karsten Solheim, who was a pioneer in golf club design and instrumental in generating interest in women’s professional golf, has been posthumously awarded the National Golf Foundation’s Graffis Award for 2000. The announcement was made by NGF Board Chairman Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., who is also Sr. Vice President – National Director of The First Tee program.
The award recognizes outstanding, lifelong contributions to the game and business of golf in the tradition of Herb and Joe Graffis, two brothers who co-founded the NGF in 1936 and worked diligently to promote the ideals and the growth of the game. Previous recipients include Judy Bell, Gene Sarazen, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Patty Berg, Tom Watson, Kerry Graham, Deane Beman, Peggy Kirk Bell, Paul Runyan, Charles Mechem and Dennis Walters.
“Few have altered the golf landscape as Karsten Solheim has,” said Barrow. “and the NGF is proud and pleased to recognize everything he did for the game of golf.”
Beginning with two popsicle sticks and two sugar cubes, Solheim began tinkering with golf club design in his garage in his spare time. The creation became the Ping1A in 1959 (named because of the “ping” sound when a ball struck the slotted metal putter face) and Karsten Manufacturing Corp. has since gained world-wide acclaim for the Ping line of golf clubs.
This design innovation is credited by many with helping make the game easier and more enjoyable for hundreds of thousands of amateur golfers. He was also a pioneer in generating interest and sponsorship dollars in women’s professional golf, becoming a major sponsor of LPGA events. He also thought the women should have a major international competition like The Ryder Cup, and in 1990, The Solheim Cup, a biennial contest between U.S. and European teams, was launched. To him, it was the “right thing to do.”
Other Solheim contributions to the game have been in the areas of turfgrass research, junior and collegiate golf, which includes providing equipment to nationally-ranked college teams.
Karsten Solheim passed away February 16, 2000, at the age of 88.