Right place, right time

WORTHINGTON -- As a member of the 1957 Worthington High School golf team, he won a state championship. His college golf team was a powerhouse in the NCAA. In 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1961, he was the men's champion in the Worthington Country Club Lab...

Joel Goldstrand (right) accepts the Labor Day tournament trophy from Doug Ahlf in 1959. Goldstrand won his third consecutive Labor Day tournament that year by shooting an even 100 for 27 holes at Worthington Country Club.

WORTHINGTON -- As a member of the 1957 Worthington High School golf team, he won a state championship.

His college golf team was a powerhouse in the NCAA.

In 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1961, he was the men's champion in the Worthington Country Club Labor Day Classic.

He spent eight years playing on the PGA tour.

In the realm of golf, Joel Goldstrand is Worthington's claim to fame, even though he hasn't called the community home since the 1950s. But, according to Joel, his career as a golf professional and later a golf course designer might never have happened if he hadn't been in just the right place at just the right time at several points in his life.


It all started with a move to Worthington when he was 11 years old, his parents, Ed and Adelaide Goldstrand, having bought a residential grocery store on Second Avenue in Worthington. His family had previously lived in North Branch, where he'd first picked up a golf club at age 5 or 6.

"In Worthington, there were a number of kids who played, so it was a very good spot to be from that standpoint," Joel recalled about those early days at Worthington Country Club. "They let the kids play in the summer for $10 for a season membership. We could even leave our clubs out there at the course so we could jump on our bikes and go back and forth. The course wasn't full during the day at all, so we had free run out there in the summer. There were some really good players who were older than our group, and so you'd look up to them, try to play with them. That's really how I got started.

"If I had moved to some other town, or if there hadn't been a number of other kids playing, who knows?"

During the summer months, there was a small contingent of young players who would compete in tournaments around the region.

"Basically, we would play what were called shortstops," Joel explained. "Each Sunday there would be a tournament in some town, a 27-hole tournament, and Doug Ahlf was really important because he would drive and take kids to these tournaments. We played a tournament in Granite Falls, and there were four of us he took to this tournament. It rained all day, and when we started home, we got into Marshall and couldn't get out because all the roads were flooded. So we stayed in a hotel in Marshall, and the roof was leaking and we were all sleeping on one bed. We got out the next day."

In high school, he played both basketball and golf -- basketball was actually his preferred sport -- but he was part of a highly competitive golf team under the leadership of coach Ken Thompson, who remains a mentor and friend to this day.

"When we were in high school, we could never beat Mankato," Joel remembered. "We'd get through to the region, and Mankato would beat us so we couldn't get to state. Finally we did when we were seniors, and we won the team championship."

While he was a good player, Joel said he hadn't attracted enough attention to warrant a golf scholarship to college. He planned to go to Gustavus Adolphus University in St. Peter and play basketball, while his golf team buddy Butch Meyeraan played hoops at Mankato State. But once again, Joel happened to be in the right place at the right time.


"I played in the Western Junior (golf tournament) at the University of Iowa during the summer between my senior year and college and got to the semifinals," he said. "The coach at the University of Houston got a hold of Ken Thompson, and it was just six weeks before school was going to start. Because somebody else wasn't going there, they had an open spot. At the time, the University of Houston was the power in golf. The team had won the NCAA before I went down there. As a freshman, I didn't play, but they won again that year. They had quite a winning streak --I think it was 13 out of 16 or some such number of winning the national championship, so I was there during the beginning of that, even though it started before I got there."

During his three years of eligibility, the University of Houston took home a NCAA championship two years. Joel majored in business, and continued his studies for one year at the University of Minnesota while he decided on his next path.

"Then I went into the Army, served in the Army reserve, and after coming out of that I took a job with Aetna life insurance. They sent me back to Houston for a couple of years. I saw a number of my former teammates out playing on the PGA tour, and I thought, 'I'm going to be mad at myself if I don't try this.' That was the summer of 1965, and I ended up going out on the tour, played for eight years."

Once again, Joel's hometown community provided support for this new golfing endeavor.

"People had been so supportive out at (Worthington Country Club), and when I went on tour, likewise, there were a number of local people who helped sponsor me during those early years," he credited.

Joel logged some solid scores on the tour, but never achieved a big win.

"I came within one shot of winning at New Orleans," he detailed. "I won some satellite events and had a few fifth-place finishes. I was 12th in the U.S. Open when it was at Hazeltine in Minneapolis. That got me into the Masters that year, but it didn't last long."

In 1973, Joel left the tour and became the golf professional at the Minneapolis Golf Club.


"I ran the golf shop and all the events there. Solveig kept the golf shop looking like it's supposed to look," said Joel, referring to his wife, the former Solveig Overdahl, another WHS graduate. "I was there for 17 years, and during those years, I started working on golf course design. When we got to 1990, I was getting busy enough with that, so I left the club and started doing design full-time at that point."

Joel's design résumé includes Worthington's Prairie View Golf Links, the Mountain Lake course, Willow Run in Sioux Falls, S.D., and renovations on a number of other southwest Minnesota courses. Due to the building boom that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s and the current state of the economy, few new courses are being built anywhere today, but Joel still does some consulting and renovation jobs.

The Goldstrands continue to live in the Twin Cities and have three children and 11 grandchildren.

"My son played reasonably well, but basketball was his first love, too, as it was for me back in those high school years," said Joel about his family's interest in golf. "But it changed, and now he works in the golf business, is a salesman for Ping golf company. My daughters really didn't play much at all, although the youngest does play a bit now. One of our granddaughters started playing and really likes it. She has a chance to be a reasonably good player. The first time she ever played 18 holes was in a junior high spring golf match, and it was 43 degrees, raining and blowing, and she had no rain gear. I told her, 'Olivia, if you still want to play after that, you must really like golf.'"

Although he doesn't pick up a club as often as he once did, Joel still hits the links and especially enjoys it when he's joined by members of his former high school golf team. He and Butch Meyeraan try to play together occasionally, and they have organized a bigger group of classmates during reunions.

Such an event will happen again during Worthington's upcoming King Turkey Day celebration, when the Class of 1957 will get together for its 55-year reunion. This time, however, the golf outing has been expanded in conjunction with the alumni band reunion to include all WHS alumni and anyone else who might be interested in playing.

"Anyone who lives around that area that you could convince them to come out and play, that would be nice," said Joel. "It's just going to be a fun day."

The King Turkey Day Golf Outing will be Sept. 14 at Worthington Country Club. Registration will begin at 10 a.m. with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. There will be two categories of play: social foursomes and competitive foursomes. Signup sheets are at the Worthington Country Club, Adrian Country Club, Prairie View Golf Course and Center Sports in Worthington. Deadline is Sept. 10.


Daily Globe Features Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

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