August 24, 1941: Blind golfers square off at Northland Country Club

On this day in Duluth in 1941, local golfer Clint Russell squared off against Marvin Shannon of Fort Worth, Texas, at Northland Country Club to see which man played the links best. The catch? Both men were completely blind. Russell was the son of Newell Russell, the “Russell” in Duluth’s Bridgeman-Russell Creamery, the largest milk distributor in the region. He went to work with his father’s firm, started a family, and enjoyed leisure time on the links. All seemed right with his world until an accident in 1924 changed Russell’s life. On his way back to Duluth from a hunting trip, Russel’s car had a flat. As he was changing the tire, it blew up in his face, blinding him. After a few years he returned to work at Bridgeman-Russell, becoming treasurer of the company in 1929. Later, on a trip to California, he was walking a golf course with his father and brother and they urged him to take a swing. He did, and it renewed his interest in the game. Returning to Duluth, Russell began practicing at Duluth’s Ridgeview Country Club. He took lessons from the pro, Sammy Belfore, and developed a system using a friend or caddie to tee up the ball, adjust his stance for direction, and line up the club face. Russell and Shannon played an 18-hole match at Duluth’s Northland Country Club on August 24. Russell won 2-up, sinking a ten-foot put on the 18th hole to clinch the win. Shannon won a rematch in Fort Worth on October 26, 1941, up 8 holes on Russel with seven left to play. But Shannon wasn’t Russell’s only opponent: Read more about this remarkable Duluth athlete here.

Clinton F. Russell, year unknown. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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