Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Karsten Solheim (September 15, 1911 – February 16, 2000) was born in Bergen, Norway, and came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 2 and settled in the Seattle, WA, area.
Having attended the University of Washington with aims of being a mechanical engineer, he had to withdraw in 1933 from college after completing his first year due to financial hardships during the Great Depression. During the outbreak of World War II, he resumed his studies at the University of California and started working at Ryan Aeronautical in San Diego. He returned to engineering with positions at Convair and General Electric.
In 1954, Solheim took up the game of golf very enthusiastically with his G.E. colleauges. But he found to his despair that he had a problem shared by millions of other duffers – he couldn’t putt. As a mechanical engineer he started examining the mechanics of putter construction and reinvented the gold club. He used the kitchen stove and garage as his work area to create his prototypes in the late 1950s and touted them to skeptics. Finally, a break happened in 1967 when Julius Boros won the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open using Solheim's "Anser" putter.
His golf club business quickly turned into Arizona’s largest family-owned firm, employing thousands of people in a futuristic manufacturing operation that ships orders throughout the world. Karsten Manufacturing, makers of the PING brand of clubs, also owns two golf clubs, shopping mall and a foundry which makes parts for Stealth bombers, M-1 tanks and other planes and weapons.
In 1995, Solheim developed Parkinson's Disease and handed his company over to his youngest son, John. Solheim died in Phoenix in February 2000.