Press Box View: Idso left his mark on southeastern Minnesota golf
His life revolved around golf, but Wayne Idso was not much of a golfer.
"He had the most unique swing I ever saw,'' said his daughter, Michele Splittstoesser. "I don't know how he ever hit the ball.
"Then arthritis caught up to him later in life, making it really hard for him to play.''
It doesn't really matter, because Idso has left his golf footprint all over Southern Minnesota in other ways besides playing golf.
You can first start with golf course design. He could turn a farmland — at first he called Maple Valley a "pasture pool'' — into one of the most scenic courses around.
There will be no argument if you have ever played the course. Your mind tends to wander between shots, because you are either admiring the limestone bluffs or wondering how there can be so many trees.
Of course, then you must also keep your ball dry, and that's tough because the Root River meanders around and through the course.
"I don't know how he did it,'' Michele said, "but he could look at a piece of property and eventually see a finished product. You or I could take that same piece of farmland and our finished product would still be farmland.''
No one knew Idso had such a knack until after he completed a stint in the Marines back in 1961 when he was 31.
Wheels began to turn
The wheels started to turn after Idso read an article in a farm periodical which suggested that farm acreages be taken out of production and converted into something recreational.
At the time Wayne and his wife Suzanne lived on a second-generation family farm but they eventually turned that into what is now the 6,270-yard, par 71 Maple Valley Golf Course.
They still live in a house right next to the course and that's a house where they raised a family of six.
The course opened in 1964.
In 1990, Idso started construction of the St. Charles Golf Course and later designed Cedar Valley in Winona and Riverview Greens in Stewartville.
"Whatever he put his hands on, it worked,'' said Michele. "I'm prejudiced but Maple Valley is one of the most beautiful courses around. A lot of people thought my dad was crazy for messing with his farmland but he proved them all wrong.
"He always loved to get his hands dirty, too. Until recently, you could see my dad riding on the tractor, mowing the fairways at the St. Charles course.''
Now Wayne Idso, 83, is on his deathbed. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on July 31.
"It could be any day now,'' Michele said. "All spring he was battling what he thought was pneumonia. He had a really bad cough. As the summer months went on, his voice got real high and eventually he went back to the doctor.
"By that time, the cancer had spread throughout his body. He got some radiation to help shrink a tumor in his throat but it's not a cure, just a band-aid.''
His chance to say goodbye
If there is anything good to come out of this, it's that Idso had a chance to say goodbye to all of his friends and family.
"Dad was able to get to St. Charles for their men's club banquet last month,'' Michele said, "and that was a chance to say thank you. A couple of weeks later he did the same thing at Maple Valley.
"We're blessed that he was able to do that. It meant a lot to him.''
Wayne and Suzanne raised a family of two sons and four daughters — Maureen McMahon, Ivan Idso, Michele Splittstoesser, Eric Idso, Kersten Danielson and Savrina Menz. There are 16 grandchildren, four step grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren, five of which were born this summer.
The Idsos have been married for 57 years.
But now it's almost time to say our goodbyes, and this time forever. There'll be some tears and some laughter, too, as family and friends remember the good times.
"He lived a wonderful life,'' Michele said. "I can speak for my entire family, he will be missed.''
Paul Christian and Craig Swalboski of the Post-Bulletin try to give readers a perspective they can't get elsewhere each Wednesday in their "view from the press box." Christian can be contacted at email@example.com.