Lonnie Nielsen

Home 5 Class of 2018 5 Lonnie Nielsen
Lonnie Nielsen’s name is synonymous with golfing excellence in Western New York. And for good reason. He’s not only made his mark in local golf, having served as club pro at the prestigious Crag Burn Golf Club in East Aurora since 1983, but also in state-wide competition, as well as on the national scene on both the PGA Tour and the PGA Champions Tour.

Lonnie turned pro in 1976, joined the PGA Tour in 1978 and in 1983 began helping countless local golfers as the head pro at Crag Burn. However, when he wasn’t instructing, he was playing, and winning – a lot.  He owns two New York State Open Championships (1985, 1989), eight Western New York Open titles, two PGA Match Play titles for non-touring PGA of America members, nine Western New York Sectional titles and a PGA Stroke Play title.

The national spotlight came mostly on the PGA Champions Tour for PGA members 50 years of age and older. Lonnie won the Commerce Bank Championship in 2007, besting Loren Roberts by two strokes. Two years later, he won the 2009 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open by going 21 under, including a final round 63 to win by three strokes over Fred Funk.  In 2006, he nearly pulled off his biggest win ever at the JELD-WEN Tradition, one of five majors on the Champions Tour, when he lost to eventual champion Eduardo Romero, who birdied the first extra playoff hole.

While he didn’t win on the regular PGA Tour, he did place 11th at the 1986 PGA Championship.  He also has twice represented the United States in the PGA Cup, a competition originating in 1973 pitting PGA teams from the U.S., Great Britain and Ireland. He won more than $5 million in his career.

A native of Belle Plaine, Iowa, Lonnie is a 1976 graduate of the University of Iowa. He was inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2010 in the Amateur / Professional Golfer category. He won the Iowa State Amateur in 1975, the same year he was named the Iowa Player of the Year.

Lonnie focuses his charitable pursuits on helping America’s injured veterans gain access to proper golf instruction. He became the first Tour professional to be a lead contributor to the GIVE Foundation (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere), a not-for-profit organization to provide a structured golf program for injured Veterans who use the Iowa City VA Health Care System. The golf program is comprised of four phases of training for injured veterans to participate in to enhance injured veterans’ mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being; and improve their quality of life.