Late last week Minneapolis businessman, civic leader, philanthropist, politician and sports executive, Wheelock Whitney Jr. passed away. Wheelock was born in St. Cloud and grew up the son of a distinguished businessman, philanthropist, and politician – Wheelock Sr.
Wheelock Jr. made a career as an investment banker in Minneapolis and co-founded what today is Minnesota’s largest private equity firm – Norwest Equity Partners. If you’re driving down Hennepin Avenue through MCTC, you will even see his named etched across their urban campus. Generally a great citizen who helped advance many causes to help the Twin Cities grow and prosper.
A man of distinction and many claims – with one of the most unique being he was the only Minnesota resident who could lay claim to being a member of Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most exclusive and storied golf clubs in the U.S. and world.
While Minnesota boasts a handful of decent golf and country clubs (Interlachen Country Club and Spring Hill Golf Club to name a few), there is an upper echelon of exclusive golf clubs in the U.S. that trump even Minnesota’s finest. While subjective, the top three being:
1) Cypress Point Golf Club in Pebble Beach, CA. Arguably on the greatest piece of property in the world for a course. It might be the most difficult course to see in person. You can take the risk of hopping out of your car to take a swing, but you will get caught.
2) Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA. Home of The Masters, rich in tradition and mystery. Difficult to gain access to play a round, but for the right amount of money one can walk the grounds if you buy a ticket to the tournament.
3) Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, New Jersey. Claimed by many as the best course in the U.S. and maybe the world. The toughest as well. A golfer’s golf course.
Over the years, there has been at least one Minnesota resident that is a member at each of these clubs. Can you get in if you’re a scratch golfer or millionaire who can write a blank check? No. Can you go online and submit an inquiry for membership? No, websites don’t exist. These are clubs at the intersection of wealth, business, civic/political/philanthropic leaders on a national level. It’s not about networking around town in Minneapolis, Edina or Wayzata. It’s about being known, respected, and connected on a national level or having connections within the 0.1%. You don’t apply, you get asked. Being a Silicon Valley elitist or Russian oligarch wouldn’t get you automatic entry.
In reality – the most likely way for any Minnesota resident to play these courses would be to work at them (facility maintenance or caddy) or simply network to eventually find one of these select members from Minnesota. Good luck finding them – while they have residential property and business investments here in Minnesota through LLCs and trusts, they likely reside for part or most of the year outside of the state.
If you can’t make such a connection, there’s always Chaska Town Course or Bunker Hills. I hear they have great twilight rates.