Karsten Solheim

Karsten Solheim

Karsten Solheim was born in Bergin, Norway, on 15th September, 1911. The family emigrated to the United States and settled in Seattle. He worked with his father as a shoemaker but had ambitions of becoming a mechanical aeronautical engineer.

In 1945 he became a research engineer at the Ryan Aeronautical Corporation where he worked on Fireball jet fighter plane. Later he joined Convair as a project engineer for the Atlas missile's first ground guidance system. He then moved to General Electric, where he had a hand in the design of the company's early portable televisions. In 1956 he joined a team of engineers working on the production of the first banking computer system.

Solheim took a keen interest in golf and in the garage at his home in Phoenix began working on his ideas for a new kind of putter. He made a number of playable prototypes, and eventually designed the world's first heel-toe balanced putter. It was named ping because of the sound it made at ball contact.

In 1959 Solheim founded the Karsten Manufacturing Corporation. However, the clubs that Solheim was making took a while to gain acceptance from golf shops and professional players and he remained with General Electric until 1961.

The breakthrough came when Julius Boros won the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open using Solheim's Anser putter. Boros remarked afterwards: "The putter looks like a bunch of nuts and bolts welded together but the ball goes in the hole." Within a few years Solheim's putters were being used by professional golfers all over the world.

After the success of his putter, Solheim began working on improving the design of other golf clubs. He was the first to use investment casting in order to improve the consistency of irons. He also developed the concept of perimeter weighting, which distributes the weight of the iron to the outer edges to increase the sweet spot and allow more room for error. By the 1980s Solheim's Ping Eye model irons became the No. 1 seller in the history of golf.

A great supporter of women's golf, Solheim sponsored LPGA tournaments in Oregon, Arizona and Massachusetts. In 1990 he founded the Solheim Cup, a biennial transatlantic team competition between the women of America and Europe.

Solheim developed Parkinson's disease and in 1995 John Solheim replaced his father as president of company that now employed over 800 people. Karsten Solheim died in Phoenix, Arizona on 16th February, 2000.