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Tom Lehman’s First Prize Money

Read this story about the first money Tom Lehman ever won playing golf.

Ron Way, Edina resident and championship flight golfer, loved the Resorts Tournament Circuit, (The Resorters in Alexandria, Pine To Palm in Detroit Lakes and The Birchmont in Bemidji), but he was especially fond of the annual Championship held each year in Alexander. Ron’s love of the game and his desire to help other golfers enjoy the game more caused a fellow golfer to nickname him “Dr. Golf”. Ron cherished the nickname and felt it was a perfect description of his relationship with golf and his fellow players. 

Showman that he is, Ron had the “Dr. Golf” name trademarked, gave golf lessons and had a radio show. He had golf caps made, in various colors, sporting the “Dr. Golf” logo and wore them everywhere. Every time someone would ask him about the Dr. Golf caps, Ron would explain that he loved the game so much and wanted to help all golfers enjoy the game. 

On the course his game spoke for itself.

Some 40 years ago, Dr. Golf had entered the Resorters and was looking forward to a run at the Championship – he was playing especially well that summer. A few days before the tournament began, Dr. Golf was showing his kids how he could takeoff from the dock using only one water ski. As he screamed, “Hit it!” the powerful speedboat quickly pulled the slack from the rope and snapped Dr. Golf forward off the dock. In an attempt to regain his balance Dr. Golf leaned back and lost his balance doing the splits! Not only was his ego bruised, the hamstring muscle on his right leg was severely pulled; making tournament golf impossible. Thus our story begins.

Dr. Golf, after some prodding by the Resorters Tournament Committee, agreed to run the annual putting tournament held after day one of the qualifying round. At the Resorters the putting tournament had become a “big deal” with a $10 entry fee and a winner take all first prize. The match play putting championship attracted big crowds and added to the competitive tournament atmosphere.  

Tom Lehman, an up-and-coming local golfer and a sure-to-be-factor in the event, was a member of the gallery as Dr. Golf meticulously entered each golfer’s name on the tournament roster. Noting the absence of Tom’s name, Dr. Golf walked over to Tom and asked, “Tom I don’t believe that you have entered the putting tournament. I don’t see your name on the roster?”

Tom hung his bashful head and looked down as he brushed the grass back and forth with his foot. “I don’t have the $10 entry fee,” he said never looking up.

Dr. Golf thought for a minute, knowing that the locals would want Tom, their rising star, to be a part of the event. “Let’s make a deal, Tom. Let’s be partners. I will pay your entry fee and we will split the prize money if you win.”

Tom looked up and his face brightened, “You mean all I have to do is play and if I win we split the money?”

“That’s right Tom, I am writing your name down right now. And here is your $10 entry fee.”

The finals match was being contested just as the sun was disappearing into the golden western horizon, guess who was in the finals? The young Tom Lehman. 

And he won.

There were handshakes all around, and a big smile on Tom’s face. Dr. Golf made a big deal out of splitting the money with Tom. $10 for you.  $10 for me.  $10 for you. Etc., etc. The smile on Tom’s face got bigger with every bill.  

Years later when Tom was in Minneapolis on business Dr. Golf re-introduced himself to Tom. Tom immediately recognized Dr. Golf and with his, still boyish, grin Tom shook Dr. Golf’s hand again and said, “That is the first ‘prize money’ I ever won.”

It certainly was not the last prize money Tom ever won! Dr. Golf accomplished his goal that day – making golf more fun, at least for one future TOUR CHAMPION!   

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