Minnesota Golf Association

MGA Past President Bill Sherman, 1926-2021

January 14, 2021

William Bradley “Bill” Sherman, 94, of Edina, passed away January 3. Part of “America’s Greatest Generation,” Sherman grew up in Minneapolis and attended Washburn High School, where he lettered in three sports. In 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp. After the war, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and later married his middle-school sweetheart, Patricia Hessian, who persuaded her husband to take up golf, a pastime they could pursue together and one which took them all over the world.

Sherman spent his entire career in the candy business first working for the Wrigley company and later for Pearson Candy, where he was the vice president and director of sales. He was nationally recognized for his work in the confectionary industry and eventually started his own business, Excel Marketing, representing other confectionary brands and snack foods.

Sherman served on the board of governors at the Interlachen Country Club where he was a member for more than 60 years. In 1971 he was elected a director of the Minnesota Golf Association and later chaired the MGA Junior Golf Committee during the first oil crisis which drove up the price of gas at a time when the MGA was expanding its regional junior tournaments. In spite of the challenges, Sherman also managed to introduce a new girls section.

After his stint on the junior golf committee, Sherman was elected secretary-treasurer of the MGA and would eventually serve as the association’s president, from 1978-1980. During Sherman’s tenure the MGA introduced a new match play championship. Called The Players’, the inaugural event was hosted by Sherman’s home club, Interlachen, and saw Scott Harris defeat long hitter Chris Perry, 6 and 5.

Another new program, hole-in-one certificates, resulted in the distribution of 166 certificates in its first year (1979) “for any member of a member club scoring that coveted ace” and represented “a lot of free drinks,” according to Warren Rebholz, MGA executive director at the time.

The MGA further cemented its position as the centralized handicap authority in Minnesota with its computer program that produced MGA Handicaps for its member clubs. The association was serving upwards of 30,000 handicaps to male amateur golfers around the state. The little green and white cards were recognized nationally including by the Bing Crosby Pro-Am.

In 1986 upon Sherman’s retirement from the executive committee as a past president, Rebholz, himself a past president, wrote “I remember when you and I ran this organization... .” The sentiment was no doubt Rebbie’s way of acknowledging Sherman’s leadership role in the transformation of the MGA from a small association concerned mainly with running a handful of amateur championships, to an organization with three full-time executive staff and respected by its peers from across the country.

Certainly he served the MGA well in his capacity as an officer and president, but Ray Galarneault, the MGA president who preceded Sherman, remembers him mostly for his faithful tournament administration not only in the metro area but especially outstate, and for spreading the spirit of sportsmanship and fellowship wherever he served.

“He was one of the real true diamonds among the many volunteers that served the MGA during the last 60 years,” Galarneault added.

It’s not clear when Sherman retired from volunteer duty with the MGA. In 1997, he was appointed chair of the MGA Amateur Championship Committee during an era of explosive growth in golfer participation and golf course building. The MGA was again transforming itself with volunteer-led committees taking more active roles in the association’s strategic direction. Sherman’s final contribution was as a tournament volunteer which lasted into the 2000s, according to the MGA’s 2008 Roster of Directors and Volunteers.

A memorial service will be held for both Patricia and Bill Sherman later in the summer of 2021 (Patricia passed away March 12, 2020). Gifts may be made in the name of William B. Sherman to the Alzeimer’s Association, 7900 W. 78th Street, Suite 100, Edina, Minn., 55439.  

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