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August 2012

Carving a career out of a passion

Tim Ailes

Photo by Flynn Ell, courtesy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper negatives, Minnesota Historical Society.

Nearly 55 years after turning pro, Eddie Langert’s passion for golf keeps driving his career. The first-ever champion of the North Dakota State Open is still playing and impacting the game.

At 28, when Langert shot his way to the 1964 Open, his name had only appeared atop the leaderboard a few times in the previous six years. “I have fond memories because it was one of the biggest tournaments I’d won up to that time,” Eddie says.

Strong Arming in Fargo

It was his passion for golf that drove him through a rough patch on the road to Fargo. After playing a full year on the PGA Tour in 1960, earning paychecks in 21 of 26 tournaments, his left shoulder began to sag — up to 3-1/2 inches out of its socket. It required an extremely rare surgery up to that point. Following the procedure, he settled into a job as the golf pro at Town and Country Club in St. Paul, Minn., and a year-long recuperation.

Eddie came back even stronger, carding victories in smaller tournaments and pro-am events before winning the ’64 Open at the Fargo Country Club. He has vivid memories of the Fargo links. High winds and driving rain cut the 36-hole event in half. In chilly 50-degree temperatures, Langert shot rounds of 37-35 for a 72. He was the only participant in the 109-golfer field to break par on the back nine, earning $25 lap money on top of the $400 cash prize.

“When I won, the course was two totally different nines designed by two different designers. It was a challenge because it was close to the river, but it was fun and exciting to play that tournament in those days. It’s become quite an event now,” Eddie says.

The next year, Eddie battled Jack Webb through the 18th hole, but his bid for the ’65 Open fell short by a single stroke. Eddie continued to work on his game, winning two championships in 1968 at the Minnesota State Open and the Iowa State Open after playing in six U.S. Opens from 1959-1967.

From Green Bay to Taylormade

A new job at Oneida Golf and Riding Club in Green Bay, Wis., allowed him to play in PGA Tournaments until he stepped back in 1973 to spend more time with his family. He served as PGA president for the next two years. It was this Green Bay stint that paved the way for his most lucrative career move.

Gary Adams, a golf club salesman from McHenry, Ill., who regularly called on Eddie while chasing a different dream, was trying to generate interest in a new venture. He shared his idea with Eddie, and before long the duo co-founded a little-known company: TaylorMade Golf.

Eddie designed clubs and helped market products to PGA players. Together, they built TaylorMade into a household name. In 1986, Eddie started Langert Golf, designing such clubs as the “Fat Eddie” and the “Langert Lizard” metalwood drivers for an international market. Eddie left TaylorMade during the economic downturn of 1989 and focused his efforts on Langert Golf. He noted particular success among PGA Senior Tour players before selling the company to the Benetton family of Italy in the early ’90s.

Now 76, Langert lives on the PGA West Golf Course in LaQuinta, Calif., home of the Bob Hope Classic/Humana Challenge. However, another Green Bay connection has lured him back to TaylorMade, where he is an advisor to President and CEO Mark King. “Mark was a kid I hired to help me in the golf shop. I hired him again after college as a salesman, and he worked his way up the ranks. I contribute as much as I can to make the business successful for them,” Langert says. After two hip surgeries, when he’s not sharing expertise with King, he’s gathering it on the course with his favorite weekly foursome or his wife, Jane, a three-time cancer survivor. Still driven by his passion, Eddie plans to work with TaylorMade until 2014, but not before hitting another milestone on his golf journey. Later this year, he will celebrate his Golden Anniversary as a 50-year member of the PGA.