Louise Solheim, widow of Ping founder, dies at 99

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Louise Solheim, wife of Ping founder Karsten Solheim, died Saturday in Phoenix at age 99.

“Today we lost a very special woman who touched and improved the lives of so many,” John A. Solheim, Karsten and Louise’s youngest son and Ping’s Chairman & CEO, said in a release issued by the company. “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 worked side-by-side with her husband 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 vowed the day she was married to put Karsten’s desires and those of their family ahead of her own. “I most definitely wanted it this way,” she often said.

“Our mother preferred working behind the scenes,” Allan D. Solheim, the middle son, said. “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.”

Louise's contributions are deeply engrained in Ping’s history. She is credited with naming the most famous putter in golf - the Ping Anser. Her role in creating the Solheim Cup in 1990 opened the door to bringing women’s professional team golf to a world-wide stage.

Her numerous honors include an honorary doctorate degree from Arizona State (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 was born June 6, 1918, in Spokane, Wash. She and Karsten met in 1936 in church and were married that same year. She 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.”

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 and Karsten had 14 grandchildren, 47 great grandchildren and 14 great great grandchildren.