PHOENIX – Louise Solheim, wife of PING Founder Karsten Solheim, has passed away in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 99.
“Today we lost a very special woman who touched and improved the lives of so many,” said John A. Solheim, Karsten and Louise’s youngest son and PING’s Chairman & CEO. “Our mother was a blessing to everyone in so many ways. She had a special quality that gave her the ability to bring a smile to everyone’s face and she handled every situation with grace. We looked to her for guidance in all aspects of our lives and she always took great care to advise us, building our confidence to make decisions ourselves. We will miss her dearly. Our entire family is at peace knowing she’s now in God’s care.”
Louise was a soft-spoken, gracious lady who worked side-by-side with Karsten to build PING into one of the most successful golf equipment companies in the history of the game while raising a family of four children. She chose to remain off stage and left the spotlight to Karsten. She vowed the day she was married to put Karsten’s desires and those of their family ahead of her own. She did it willingly and joyfully without the need for recognition. “I most definitely wanted it this way,” she often said.
“Our mother preferred working behind the scenes,” said Allan D. Solheim, the middle son. “Karsten’s tinkering with putter designs in our garage began as a hobby, but it quickly turned into a thriving business. From the beginning, my mother assumed the administrative side of the business, allowing Karsten to focus on club designs. She was blessed with an incredible memory, which Karsten relied on regularly. Whether it was remembering someone’s name or the specifics of an event, she always had the answer. Together, they made an amazing team that formed the foundation for PING today.”
Despite her desire to maintain a low profile, her countless contributions are widely recognized and deeply engrained in PING’s history. She is credited with naming the most famous putter in golf -- the PING ANSER -- which has been used to win more than 500 professional golf tournaments around the world. Her role in creating the Solheim Cup in 1990 opened the door to bringing women’s professional team golf to a world-wide stage for the players to show off their shot-making skills while competing for the honor of their countries.
Her numerous honors include an Honorary Doctorate degree from Arizona State University (1992), the LPGA’s Commissioner’s Award (1994), Swedish Golf Federation Distinguished Service Award (2003), Arizona Golf Hall of Fame (2004), Arizona State University Regents Award for Outstanding Service to Higher Education (2004), Honorary LPGA member (2005) and Honorary Ladies European Tour member (2011).
“Louise had a keen business sense that she combined with a generous heart,” said Karsten Louis Solheim, the oldest son. “She was guided by the Bible and wanted every action to be pleasing to God. She believed God had been exceptionally good to us and wanted to make sure as a company we gave back. She was especially thoughtful in her administration of the Solheim Foundation. I worked closely with her over the years and she applied a wise and fair approach to the distribution of the funds, always making sure the beneficiary’s values and missions led to the betterment of people’s lives.”
Born June 6, 1918, in Spokane, Wash., Louise was the only child of John Louis Crozier, a teacher and inventor, and his wife, Nellie, who died of scarlet fever a month after giving birth to Louise. She and Karsten met in 1936 in church and were married that same year. Both devout Christians, they remained active in church throughout their lives. At the time of her passing, Louise was a member of Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix.
An honor student in high school, Louise worked various jobs over the years as she and Karsten moved around the country while he continued his engineering career. In the early 1950s, she worked for Convair (now General Dynamics) in its wind tunnels, calculating and plotting test results for the aerospace engineers. Her title was “Computer.” Shortly after moving to Syracuse in 1954, she took a position with the Eastern Milk Producers Dairy Cooperative, where her job included editing the company newsletter. It turned out to be her favorite job of all. Her last position before PING became a full-time pursuit for her family was assisting John Conlan, a two-term State Senator from Arizona who later became a U.S. Congressman.
Louise was preceded in death by Karsten (February, 2000) and their daughter, Sandra Solheim Aiken (December, 2013). She is survived by her three sons: John A. Solheim, Karsten Manufacturing Corporation Chairman, President & CEO; Allan D. Solheim, retired Karsten Manufacturing Executive Vice President and current board member; and Karsten Louis Solheim, retired Karsten Manufacturing Executive Vice President and current board member.
Louise was blessed with 14 grandchildren, 47 great grandchildren and 14 great, great grandchildren.