November 3rd, 2015

Gahm family to be inducted into LCSN HOF

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer


Gahm family to be inducted into LCSN HOF
The Gahm family / photo provided by the Gahm's

A man had a dream and he made it real.

Dwight Gahm, lifelong golf addict, wanted to build a course in the Louisville area that would be more or less modeled after some of the great courses he and his three sons had played.

He had a name for it.

Valhalla.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the heaven for heroes. The great warriors who died in battle enter this paradise to feed and celebrate with the gods. It was perfect for the course that the Gahms built on 440 acres on Shelbyville Road in Eastern Jefferson County.

Today, Valhalla is known in the golf world as the place where the U.S. upset Europe to win the 2008 Ryder Cup. It’s the place where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy won PGA Championships. And it’s the place where Tom Watson, near the end of his career, won the U.S. Senior Open. The gods of golf have smiled on Valhalla.

For fulfilling Dwight’s dream, and for all the other contributions they have made to the quality of life in Louisville and Southern Indiana, the Gahms are the recipients of the 2015 Howard Schnellenberger Family Award, given by the Louisville Catholic Sports Network and sponsored by The Bill Collins Ford Family.

And it’s all because of one family’s passion.

Dwight Gahm was an outstanding center on Indiana University’s football team before graduating in 1941. He joined the Army and rose from private to captain while serving in World War II.

Returning home after the war, Dwight began his business career as a partner in a diaper business. In 1955, he shifted fields, acquiring the Kitchen Kompact company of Jeffersonville, Ind. At the time, the post-war building boom was going full-blast and everybody had to have a new kitchen. By 1966, according to The Courier-Journal, Gahm’s company was ranked as one of the five best kitchen-cabinet companies in the world.

The matriarch of the Gahm family, Anna Lee, organized the busy schedules of the three boys Walt, Gordy and Phil. Their driveway and backyard was a neighborhood gathering place as the boys went through St. Raphael elementary and then St. Xavier high schools.

The boys all had their sporting strengths: Walt was a member of St. Xavier’s first KHSAA football state championship team in 1962 under head coach Johnny Miehaus. He went on to play at Purdue and played on the team that won the 1967 Rose Bowl. Gordy was a member of the “Jolly Green Giants” basketball team at St. Raphael and a major contributor on the 1969 St. X basketball regional championship team and later played at Dayton. Phil played golf at St. X and was as an All-State defensive end for as a key member of Bob Glaser’s 1974 undefeated state championship team.

As the boys transitioned from high school to college to the family business, Dwight acquired the 440 acres on Shelbyville Road. Initially, he thought he might use the land to develop a subdivision or shopping center. But then another idea began to take shape, one that he and his sons discussed endlessly at home and on their golf trips: Why not use the land to build a world-class golf course?

They all liked the Muirfield Village golf course that Jack Nicklaus had built outside his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and they had a connection with Nicklaus. While playing football at Purdue, Walt roomed with quarterback Bob Griese, later a star with the Miami Dolphins. Griese and Nicklaus were friends through several mutual connections in south Florida. So Griese was the conduit for a meeting between Nicklaus and the Gahms.

Nicklaus agreed to come in and look at the property. His assessment? “You could build a helluva golf course here.” That’s precisely what the Gahms wanted to hear, so they hired Nicklaus’ company to turn the scruffy earth into Valhalla.

The Gahms stay mainly in the background when the major events come to Valhalla because that’s their style. They have the satisfaction of knowing what they have done for Louisville and for golf, and they don’t feel the need to be recognized any more than they already have been.

But a family award that recognizes their Catholic roots is something different. They are living proof that dreams can come true. And they know that’s a message that can’t be discussed enough.

 

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