MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - Dozens of people hit the greens at the historic Keller Golf Course in Maplewood on Saturday to see what was new after a $12 million renovation.
Over the past two years, Ramsey County Parks and Recreation rebuilt the clubhouse and pro shop and renovated the entire course while honoring its original 1929 design.
"The same flavor and the same history was preserved throughout all that," said Joe Oyanagi, director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation.
The 85-year-old course has been played by many famous golfers over the years, including Jack Nicklaus, Patty Berg and Arnold Palmer. Even gangsters, like John Dillinger, are said to have played there.
Thor Nordwall, 93, was a caddy at Keller Golf Course. He came to Saturday's grand reopening and recounted one particularly memorable summer, when he caddied for professional golfer Gene Sarazen at the St. Paul Open Golf Tournament in 1939.
Keller Golf Course was a stop on the PGA Tour from the 1930s to the 1960s.
While many pros paid their caddies an average $20 for a weekend of help in 1939, Sarazen did not.
"In his case he gave me two golf clubs and $10 and I thought that was pretty cheap," he said.
It turns out, one of those clubs is believed to be Sarazen's famous double eagle 4-wood from the 1935 Masters.
"It's a $100,000 club," Nordwall said.
Nordwall actually played with that club for a number of years until he heard about its story and value. He then donated it to the United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey six years ago, saying "It belongs someplace where everybody can see it."
Keller Golf Course is now ready to make some new history with new greens, tees and bunkers.
"Removing a lot of the oaks from here I thought was going to be traumatic but it has improved the golf course," said Nordwall.
The brand new clubhouse is bigger but designed to look like the original. Nordwall was impressed with that too. "I thought they were crazy for pulling it down originally but I'm not now," he said.
This former caddie has decided he is coming back to Keller Golf Course this summer. This time, it will be to play a round or two.
"What I see is wonderful," he said.
Those who run Keller Golf Course like Nordwall's story so much that the restaurant is naming a sandwich after him. It will be called the Thor Steak Sandwich.