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From pucks to putting: Tom Maas went to UMD for hockey, but enters the school's Hall of Fame as a golfer

A horrible accident deprived Tom Maas from playing his chosen sport at Minnesota Duluth, but that didn't stop the Duluth Denfeld graduate from excelling in athletics.

Tom Maas
Tom Maas, an exceptional Minnesota Duluth golfer, will be inducted into the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame tonight. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Duluth

A horrible accident deprived Tom Maas from playing his chosen sport at Minnesota Duluth, but that didn't stop the Duluth Denfeld graduate from excelling in athletics.

Maas, who already was an exceptional golfer, turned to the links full-time and became one of the best in UMD history. The school is recognizing his achievements tonight as Maas and five others are enshrined in the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame.

"I went to UMD for hockey, and I ended up making the Hall of Fame for golf," Maas said with a chuckle earlier this week.

Maas helped UMD win four consecutive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team titles and earn a third-place finish at the 1962 NAIA Championships in Davenport, Iowa, a tournament in which Maas took second place by two strokes and was named All-American.

Previously, Maas was chosen Minnesota Junior Golfer of the Year in 1958 and played in the National Jaycee Tournament that year in Tucson, Ariz., a tournament Jack Nicklaus had won the year before and Ray Floyd won the year after. He was runner-up in the 1959 Minnesota state tournament and earned scholarship offers from UCLA, Houston and Drake.

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But Maas, who led Denfeld's hockey team in scoring as a senior in 1959, had his eyes on skating for coach Connie Pleban's Bulldogs.

"I really wanted to play hockey," Maas said. "Connie Pleban was the coach at the time and he had talked to me about coming out to play hockey."

Pleban resigned shortly thereafter and Ralph Romano took over. Two weeks before the first team meeting, Maas' hopes were ended when he was hit by a car in the East End.

"I was run over by a car and I was just torn up," he said. "My knees and my ankle were ripped apart. It was the end of my hockey career, it happened that quickly."

Maas showed up at that team meeting on crutches.

"I remember Ralph looking at me and his mouth fell open and he said, 'What happened to you?' " Maas recalled.

But there was no keeping him off the golf course. He was runner-up at the 1960 MIAC meet, and two years later became the Bulldogs' first NAIA All-American in any sport.

Maas' hockey dreams were not quite over as Romano asked him to come out as a senior, but he declined.

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"I didn't feel I was at the level to play college hockey at that point, so I didn't go out," he said.

After earning a bachelor's degree in political science and history in 1963, Maas continued his golf career. At one time, he held or equaled seven course records, including Enger Park in Duluth, Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing and several courses near his new home in the Quad Cities area along the Illinois-Iowa border.

Maas captured titles at more than two dozen events as an amateur, including the Rock Island Arsenal Golf Tournament (seven times), the Oakwood Country Club Invitational President's Cup (1971 and 1973) and the 1972 Midwest Pro-Am tournament. But shortly after firing a 66 to earn low amateur status at the 1975 PGA Tour Quad Cities Open Pro-Am (the current John Deere Classic), Maas retired from competitive golf.

"I was playing the best golf of my life, but turning pro and earning a living are two different things," he said. "You can turn pro, but you may never win a nickel. I was always an entrepreneur at heart and golf was consuming too much of my time at that point. I just wanted to do something else."

Maas moved back to Duluth in the mid-1970s and now splits time between Duluth and the Laughlin, Nev., area. He created or turned around numerous companies and generated jobs in the medical, construction, apparel and food and beverage industries. He is chairman of Maas Group, an Arizona residential and commercial investment company.

Maas met his wife, Nancy, in the UMD cafeteria, and they are going on 50 years of marriage. They have three children and four grandchildren.

As far as golf? Maas says he's been too busy working and hasn't been on a course for at least a couple of years.

r The other Hall of Fame inductees are Amory Bodin (football, 1976-80), Guy "Goose" Gosselin (men's hockey, 1983-87), Maria Rooth (women's hockey, 1999-2003), Jenny (Warrick) Reierson (soccer, 1998-2001) and Chris Swiatkiewicz (baseball). The banquet, which is open to the public, will be held at the Holiday Center's Lake Superior Ballroom. The event kicks off with a 5:30 p.m. social, followed by a 6:15 dinner and program at 7. The six inductees also will be recognized at halftime of UMD's football game against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday night.

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A horrible accident deprived Tom Maas from playing his chosen sport at Minnesota Duluth, but that didn't stop the Duluth Denfeld graduate from excelling in athletics.

Maas, who already was an exceptional golfer, turned to the links full-time and became one of the best in UMD history. The school is recognizing his achievements tonight as Maas and five others are enshrined in the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame.

"I went to UMD for hockey, and I ended up making the Hall of Fame for golf," Maas said with a chuckle earlier this week.

Maas helped UMD win four consecutive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team titles and earn a third-place finish at the 1962 NAIA Championships in Davenport, Iowa, a tournament in which Maas took second place by two strokes and was named All-American.

Previously, Maas was chosen Minnesota Junior Golfer of the Year in 1958 and played in the National Jaycee Tournament that year in Tucson, Ariz., a tournament Jack Nicklaus had won the year before and Ray Floyd won the year after. He was runner-up in the 1959 Minnesota state tournament and earned scholarship offers from UCLA, Houston and Drake.

But Maas, who led Denfeld's hockey team in scoring as a senior in 1959, had his eyes on skating for coach Connie Pleban's Bulldogs.

"I really wanted to play hockey," Maas said. "Connie Pleban was the coach at the time and he had talked to me about coming out to play hockey."

Pleban resigned shortly thereafter and Ralph Romano took over. Two weeks before the first team meeting, Maas' hopes were ended when he was hit by a car in the East End.

"I was run over by a car and I was just torn up," he said. "My knees and my ankle were ripped apart. It was the end of my hockey career, it happened that quickly."

Maas showed up at that team meeting on crutches.

"I remember Ralph looking at me and his mouth fell open and he said, 'What happened to you?' " Maas recalled.

But there was no keeping him off the golf course. He was runner-up at the 1960 MIAC meet, and two years later became the Bulldogs' first NAIA All-American in any sport.

Maas' hockey dreams were not quite over as Romano asked him to come out as a senior, but he declined.

"I didn't feel I was at the level to play college hockey at that point, so I didn't go out," he said.

After earning a bachelor's degree in political science and history in 1963, Maas continued his golf career. At one time, he held or equaled seven course records, including Enger Park in Duluth, Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing and several courses near his new home in the Quad Cities area along the Illinois-Iowa border.

Maas captured titles at more than two dozen events as an amateur, including the Rock Island Arsenal Golf Tournament (seven times), the Oakwood Country Club Invitational President's Cup (1971 and 1973) and the 1972 Midwest Pro-Am tournament. But shortly after firing a 66 to earn low amateur status at the 1975 PGA Tour Quad Cities Open Pro-Am (the current John Deere Classic), Maas retired from competitive golf.

"I was playing the best golf of my life, but turning pro and earning a living are two different things," he said. "You can turn pro, but you may never win a nickel. I was always an entrepreneur at heart and golf was consuming too much of my time at that point. I just wanted to do something else."

Maas moved back to Duluth in the mid-1970s and now splits time between Duluth and the Laughlin, Nev., area. He created or turned around numerous companies and generated jobs in the medical, construction, apparel and food and beverage industries. He is chairman of Maas Group, an Arizona residential and commercial investment company.

Maas met his wife, Nancy, in the UMD cafeteria, and they are going on 50 years of marriage. They have three children and four grandchildren.

As far as golf? Maas says he's been too busy working and hasn't been on a course for at least a couple of years.

* The other Hall of Fame inductees are Amory Bodin (football, 1976-80), Guy "Goose" Gosselin (men's hockey, 1983-87), Maria Rooth (women's hockey, 1999-2003), Jenny (Warrick) Reierson (soccer, 1998-2001) and Chris Swiatkiewicz (baseball). The banquet, which is open to the public, will be held at the Holiday Center's Lake Superior Ballroom. The event kicks off with a 5:30 p.m. social, followed by a 6:15 dinner and program at 7. The six inductees also will be recognized at halftime of UMD's football game against Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday night.

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