A horrible accident deprived Tom Maas from playing his chosen sport at UMD, 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 recognized his achievements in September 2013 along with five others, and they were enshrined in the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I went to UMD for hockey, and I ended up makgin the Hall of Fame for gold,” Maas said with a chuckle.
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 Flyod 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 ankles 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 late 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, Duluth, Mesaba Country Club in Hibbing and several courses near his new home in the Quad Cities area long 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 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 the 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, Nv., area. He created or turned around numerous companies and generated jobs in medical, construction, apparel and good 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’d been too busy working and hasn’t been on a course for a least a couple of years.
The other Hall of Fame inductees in 2013 were 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).