Solheim got his putters into the hands of PGA Tour players, including Julius Boros, who won the 1967 Phoenix Open with one of his clubs. He also sought out LPGA Tour players to play with his clubs, promising scientifically-sound performance with his creation. The fatherly designer encouraged the pros to try his putters and made them available to those searching for success on the greens.
As his brand grew, Solheim’s company sponsored male and female touring professionals throughout Europe and the United States. By the 1980s, his “Ping players” regularly won pro tournaments at every level, which helped ramp up the appeal of the unique-looking clubs to the general public.
Solheim also sponsored LPGA Tour events on both coasts, nearly making the Ping brand synonymous with women’s golf by the 1990s. In fact, LPGA Hall of Fame player Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to break 60 in competition with her record score of 59 at the 2001 Standard Register Ping tournament in Phoenix. That event was sponsored by Ping and hosted by Moon Valley Country Club, once owned by Karsten Solheim, who also lived on the course with his longtime wife, Louise.
The Norwegian-born cobbler’s son grew up in Seattle and settled in Phoenix, where his manufacturing company is still headquartered. His children and grandchildren now run the company, which has donated millions of dollars to build golf courses at Oklahoma State University and at Arizona State University, winner of seven NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships
Karsten Solheim died in 2000 at age 88, but his family’s company has continued to support women’s golf and the Solheim Cup. Ping is also still a sponsor of top male and female professionals around the world, including the PGA’s Bubba Watson and the LPGA’s Brooke Henderson.