Mankato Golf Club 100th Anniversary

Photos: Submitted

Playing the Long Game

Mankato Golf Club celebrates 100 years of building business relationships.

There are many business tools available today that weren’t around 100, 40 or even 10 years ago: smart phone apps, Skype meetings, and super high-speed internet just to name a few. Nowadays there are a LOT of high-tech ways business gets done. However, there is a more traditional business tool that is still thriving, a good old-fashioned way to get business deals made. It’s not in a conference room or an office building…but on a golf course.

Overall, participation in the sport of golf may be down a bit, but still an estimated 25 million people play in the United States alone. More impressive is the number of top CEOs, sports stars, movie stars and entrepreneurs who are avid golfers. Forbes estimates 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf.

So, you see, golf isn’t merely a leisure sport. It’s the martini lunch of the modern workforce, a dynamic venue where business gets done. You don’t necessarily have to have skills off the tee, on the greens, or out of the bunker to win, but you will become avidly skilled in the art of advancing business relationships, whether it’s your boss, current/prospective client, or future employer.

“Through the game of golf and the culture around it, I learned many basic values; respect your elders, be honest, work hard, be kind, no one is great and no one is small,” says George Peterson, founder of The Creative Company in Mankato. “Some of these lessons were taught to me by my father and mother, but many of them just came from being exposed to golf and the people who played the game. Those qualities and values were and still are an integral part of the game.”

Mankato Golf Club original members, December 1923.

A century ago, yes 100 years ago, it was a group of businessmen that had the foresight to recognize what a golf club could mean to the city of Mankato. Business leaders from Mankato Citizens Telephone Company, National Bank of Commerce and local law offices were among the men who moved mountains…well, trees actually…to make their dream become a reality in 1919.

The earnestness of the Club’s early history is prevalent today. What started as a nine-hole course with cups for holes, has turned into an immaculately manicured 18-hole course: the pride of the now nearly 350 members.

“MGC is more than the walls of the clubhouse, the splash of the pool or the timeless beauty of our 100-year-old golf course. In essence what makes MGC such a special place are the current and former members from all walks of life who have built a welcoming facility full of connections to each other, to the Mankato community and to the state of Minnesota,” says Peterson.

The current golf pro and manager of the Club, Dave Torbenson, says those early founders really paved the way for what is an integral part of the community.

Dave Torbenson

“Although our history dates back to 1919, MGC has adapted to the ever-changing needs of our membership through the years,” says Torbenson. “Staff and members are very welcoming to new members and guests and appreciate that the golf club is not limited to just golf. We strive to meet the needs of the entire family, golfer or not, with many special member events and opportunities in the clubhouse and at the pool as well. The annual Open House held each March is a great time to explore all that Mankato Golf Club has to offer.”

A century ago, of course, southern Minnesota looked a lot different than it does now, both the landscape and the business climate. For us living today, it may be difficult to imagine or understand the challenges of that time. The world was just recovering from World War I. Women could not vote. There was no commercial radio or television. It was a time of uncertainty around the world and around the country.

Mankato had a healthy economy, but a group of businessmen at that time knew something was missing. By 1918, it was estimated there were more than 2,500 courses in America. But there wasn’t one in Mankato.

It first came up during lunch meetings among the businessmen in town in the fall of 1918. Even though there were only two sets of golf clubs in the entire city at that time, these men seemed determined to bring the game to Mankato. Seemingly casual conversations at first, over the course of a couple of months, the conversations became more earnest, more serious. One day over lunch at the Elks Lodge, the group pulled out a paper bag and began taking minutes, signifying the first official meeting on December 31, 1918.

Their first order of business was to find a location for a golf course. By January 10, 1919 they found their spot. They quickly elected a board of directors and organized 50 shareholders at $500 each to purchase the land. The asking price was $24,000, or $150 an acre.

It seems the perfect spot today, but at that time some wondered how the group of men chose the piece of land they did. It was heavily wooded with ravines, hard to imagine it as a golf course. Just like the extraordinary men hoping to make history with Mankato’s first golf course, the land itself had quite a history.

Phillip Hodapp was born in Hasloch, Baden, Germany on April 23, 1833. His parents sailed with him to America in 1837, where they joined a colony of German-American farmers in St. Paul. All grown up and married by the fall of 1854, Hodapp and his wife traveled to Mankato by wagon. Here the Hodapps settled on a 160-acre timber claim. It was a unique opportunity as the property had originally been deeded to a soldier fighting in the Civil War. That soldier ended up dying before he could take possession of the land. The property was then granted to Hodapp by President Abraham Lincoln himself on March 25, 1862 (the club has a copy of the original deed to prove it! (shown below)) Hodapp put the land, overlooking the valley, up for sale in 1918 and the directors of the newly-formed Mankato Golf Club, knew it was the land they wanted for their course. (an excerpt from The Complete History, Mankato Golf Club)

Treating the Club as a business, the founders decided additional capitalization of the new corporation would be 200 shares of stock at $100 per share. Dues were set at $25 per year plus $10 for wives and children under 20. That is how the Mankato Golf Club was originally financed.

Buoyed by the enthusiasm of the founders, including H.A. Patterson, P.M. Ferguson, John Nyquist and Frank Landkamer, the Mankato Golf Club got off to a strong start. Members working together to clear the land and build a rudimentary course. Playing began mid year 1919.

By the mid 1920s, though, the business slump hit and the next few years were a very difficult period for the Club. Many members left the community to find work, others could not afford to keep up their membership. The economic downturn took its toll on the golf club, as it struggled to keep up the required 200 memberships, dues from which were necessary to maintain the Club. But just as some faltered, the hardship strengthened the resolve of others and some of the founders renewed their commitment to the cause. One man, H.A. Patterson, carrying seven memberships himself to ensure the club could stay open.

But the fast, successful start almost came to screeching halt as the decade ended with the stock market crash of 1929. In Minnesota, the economic outlook was even bleaker than most. The banking industry was proving unstable and farm foreclosures grew steadily. Yet golf continued to provide a much-needed diversion from daily life and the game grew in popularity. MGC weathered this economic storm of the 20s, only to face an even bigger challenge from Mother Nature herself.

It was in June of 1929 that a tornado tore through Mankato, cutting a swath nearly a mile wide and 15 miles long. The Mankato Golf Club was in its path. When it was all over 20 minutes after it began, the roof of the clubhouse was found on No. 9 green, some parts of the building were found in the ravine by No. 2 green. The tornado destroyed the Clubhouse. However, it did not destroy the spirit of MGC members of the time. And they rebuilt.

The Club has survived many challenges since those early years, a credit to the members and the leaders over the past decades. There are still members today who remember those early times and look forward to the future. Peterson’s family has been with the Club since the beginning.

“Well, really, I have been a member since I was born in 1938!” muses Peterson. “My mother and father were lifetime members and as a result I belonged under their name. When they instituted junior memberships I joined under that category. I came back from the Army and married Sandy. We became stockholders in 1962. Sandy would go on to become the first woman stockholder. All of our children were either junior members or stockholders and their children, our grandchildren, have all been at one time or another members. Before all of that my grandfather, Dr. C.P. Peterson, was one of the original members. Now I realize that someone from our family has been a member of the club for all of its hundred years.”

That evolution really signifies what the Club has become. Not just a place to do business. Not just a place for men to gather. Not just a place to play golf.

A swimming pool was added in 1960 to encourage more family involvement. Women, who at first only took the role of social planning, began taking on a larger role outside the clubhouse on and off the course. Now they have their own leagues. And, today, there are more youth opportunities than ever before. The dining experience, too, is top notch.

“MGC over the past 100 years has been the place to connect with other business owners and influential people in the Mankato area. We understand that for business owners, having a place to entertain and do business is very important and the Mankato Golf Club is a great place that checks all the boxes,” says Torbenson. “Also, in this competitive job market, we understand that a club such as MGC can be very important in bringing the best candidates to Mankato and we would love to speak with any business leaders about how MGC can play a big part in your recruiting pitch.”

As the Mankato Golf Club heads into its next century, it looks forward to continuing to be a place where business is conducted, where families come together, and where friendships are forged.

“Golf is a game like no other and can mean so many different things to different people’” says Torbenson. “We are lucky to have such a classic and exquisite golf course as a canvass for each golfer to paint their picture. At Mankato Golf Club we embrace all of these differences in what the game means to our members and their families while celebrating what golf represents. Whether a person is an avid tournament golfer, a social golfer with a group of friends or family, or an 8 year old just learning the game, we pride ourselves on being a facility that can meet all of the needs of what our members want from and enjoy about the game of golf.”

Capturing A Century

In celebration of the 100-Year History, the Mankato Golf Club, under the guidance of Katie Zinni and George Peterson, has compiled a book detailing the history. And it’s full of pictures!

The cost is $48.95 plus tax. The book may be purchased by stopping by or calling the Mankato Golf Club Golf Shop at (507) 387-5636.

Open House Set For March

The Mankato Golf Club Spring Open House to explore all that MGC has to offer on and off the golf course will be held the evening of Tuesday, March 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Clubhouse.

New and exclusive for 2019, in the week leading up to the open house, dining will be open to the general public. This will begin on Tuesday, March 19. This is a special offering to kick off the centennial season and include the entire Mankato community. In addition, over Memorial Day weekend, MGC will be opening up the tee sheet to the general public with special pricing.

“The great people of the Mankato area community and our fantastic MGC membership are the reason we are celebrating this very special milestone in 2019. This centennial season, MGC looks to further connect with the community with these special days and offerings, so more people can experience and enjoy what has enabled Mankato Golf Club to endure for the past century and lead us into the next 100 years,” says Torbenson.

Constantly Moving Forward

The MGC has come a long way in the last century. Already members and the community are looking forward to what is next.

“For the golfer it is by constantly improving on our wonderful golf course and offering diverse programs and access for young, old, seasoned golfers and beginning golfers to enjoy the course and all the aspects of the great game of golf. For those more interested in the many amenities of the club including the heated pool and dining operation, each year we are adding more special dining opportunities, theme nights as well as many family events through the year. There has and will always continue to be attention paid to the grounds around and visible from the clubhouse. In 2018 we renovated the entire 1st tee complex and a landscaping in front of the clubhouse is planned for this spring,” says Torbenson.

Club Amenities

Today Mankato Golf Club features a classic championship 18-hole golf course. Other amenities include an extensive practice facility complete with a large practice green, full shot and short game area, outdoor heated swimming and kiddy pool. The clubhouse features a food and beverage operation with dishes ranging from a burger and fries to a four-course meal. The Clubhouse is also available for special events, meetings, banquets and weddings.

The Essentials

Mankato Golf Club
100 Augusta Drive
Mankato, MN 56001

Phone: 507-387-5676 (Clubhouse)
507-387-5043 (10th Tee­)
507-387-4318 (Pool)


Lisa Cownie

Lisa Cownie

Editor of Connect Business Magazine

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