Jeff Kolpack, Published April 25 2014
Fargo golfer Hanson remembered fondly
Like the time when 350 people attended a championship “testimonial dinner” at the Masonic Temple in Fargo honoring the city’s first national champion. Hanson won the 1950 United States Amateur tournament, and the featured speaker of the event held a few months later was Louise Suggs, the 1947 amateur champion.
Suggs, now 90 years old and living in St. Augustine, Fla., remembers that October weekend to this day.
“I remember before I got on the plane in Atlanta, my dad yelled at me to turn around,” she said earlier this week. “He said, ‘You better take this up there.’ It was a coat. We took a DC-3, which at the time was the biggest plane in those days. Sure enough, when we got up there, there were snow flurries.”
Hanson and Suggs were also honored at a noon luncheon at the Fargo Country Club. It’s most likely that’s when a photograph of her and the U.S. Amateur trophy was taken – a large portrait that still hangs in the Country Club today.
Suggs said the U.S. Amateur victory introduced Hanson to golf on a national stage. Before that, she was a consistent winner on smaller amateur tourneys across the country.
“It was the beginning of her career,” Suggs said.
Hanson went on to a distinguished professional career, winning the first-ever LPGA Championship in 1955. She beat Suggs twice in one week in that tournament – first in stroke play and again 4 and 3 in match play. She also beat her in two of her three major victories.
Her career wins included 17 tournaments overall.
Suggs may be considered one of the 13 founders of women’s professional golf, but she puts Hanson in the next category – a pioneer – in the game.
“Even if we had different personalities, we managed to get along,” Suggs said. “There weren’t too many of us, but we did the best we could do.”
She describes Hanson as a good friend who took a couple of trips together. She said Hanson was a “prankster” who you never knew when to take serious.
“Some people were easier to play with than others – she was nice to play with,” Suggs said. “I didn’t get in her way, and she didn’t get in my way. She had a pleasant personality. We would go for a couple of beers once in a while, that sort of thing. We were normal human beings, and that’s the type of life we led.”
They went their separate ways after Hanson left the LPGA Tour in 1961 to start a family. She married Andrew Sfingi that same year, and the couple raised two adopted sons.
“I really didn’t stay in close contact with her after that,” Suggs said. “Occasionally, I heard from her through the grapevine, that sort of thing.”
Hanson bridged Fargo gap for assistant pro
The story of Hanson’s career in The Forum last Sunday caught the eye of former North Dakota State golf coach Billy Iverson, who worked in 1989 and 1990 at Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif., where Hanson was a part-time teaching pro. Iverson said he had no idea for a while of the magnitude of Hanson’s career until the head pro at Eldorado told him one day.
To him, she was more of a connection to Fargo. Or vice versa.
“Anytime she would come by when I was on the driving range, she would drop a Fargo tidbit,” Iverson said. “ ‘Jim Adelson’ she would say, something like that. Every time she would do that. I could tell she had a warm place for Fargo. Just the way she conducted herself, she wanted to touch base with somebody from home.”
Iverson remembers her talking about cruising Broadway on a couple of occasions.
“She knew I was a young kid who was a long way from home,” he said. “Around Christmas, she gave me a little gift. The members loved her, too. She always took time to say hi and would look you straight in the eye. She took the time to talk to the little guys.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia