Friendly folk in Chaska

CHASKA, Minn. – I’ll say this about Chaska. You sure meet some nice people around here. Early Thursday, while hanging out near the first tee waiting for Tiger to come through, I struck up a conversation with Dr. Edgar Zieglar, who just happened to be the mayor of this fine little city when a major championship first came calling – in 1970, when Hazeltine National played host to a U.S. Open.

Dr. Zieglar, a dentist who retired his practice in 1994 but still teaches at the University of Minnesota – or “the U,” as my colleague Dan Mirocha calls it – gave me some pretty startling information about the Hazeltine National property and his fine city. When he moved here in 1956, there were only about 3,200 residents here, and now there are roughly 25,000. Funny thing about the property. Dr. Zieglar told me the first 80 acres of this farmland that was used to build the course (designed in 1962 by Robert Trent Jones) was sold for $600 an acre. But when the Open came calling, more land was needed for the infrastructure that comes with hosting the event, so a second sale – for only 20 acres – went for more than $1 million.

“There was a headline in the local paper after that one,” said the Doc. “It said, ‘Farmer Fred is a Millionaire.’”

Farmer Fred was Fred Molnau, who farmed the property, as his dad once had done in homesteading the land. When Fred’s son Steve later sold off the last 50 acres, the price was $4.3 million. Got to love how the price of dairyland can escalate.

Anyway, those tall trees you see everywhere on the property used to be “just sticks” when Dr. Zieglar was mayor of Chaska, he said, and as beautiful as the golf course is, he never has played it. How's that? A dentist who doesn't golf.

“My wife and I tried the practice range one time,” he said, “but that was it. It (playing golf) took too much time.”

Two famous happenings came out of that 1970 Open. Tony Jacklin won (the last European to capture the U.S. Open); and eventual runner-up Dave Hill seized headlines with his terse response when, during a weather delay, he was asked what he thought of the course.

Said Hill, “All it really lacks is 80 acres of corn and a few cows.”

Ouch. So what did the Mayor and all the fine citizens of Chaska think of that?

“That’s right, the fellah said it was a cow pasture,” he said, laughing. “We got a big kick out of that. Actually, down along the lake, it was ...”

Yer darn tootin'.

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