DOUGLAS McFARLAND – Retired Law School Professor, Counselor To U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, Writer And Golfer
By R.J. Smiley
The very successful MGA Senior Tour is loaded with characters. They come in all shapes, sizes (sometimes very large) and backgrounds.
Each week old friendships grow and new acquaintances become friends. Sometime during the round the conversation goes, “Are you retired or still working?”
“Yes, I am a retired _______. I was a _______. Been retired for _____ years.”
So, you might say that we know these guys, but we really don’t know them. That was the case with Doug McFarland. Who answered the question, “retired college professor at Hamline.” But as I say, I really did not know him.
During the lockdown I began posting old Tee Times Magazine stories on my GolfTales Facebook page. I sent an announcement email to a collection of golfers email addresses.
I received an email from Doug McFarland. He said, “I enjoyed reading your stories. I am also a writer. Go to my website www.dougmcfarlandbooks.com to see what I have written.”
When I clicked the extremely well done website, I was completely blown away. Our (meaning the Senior Tour’s own) Doug McFarland is a brilliant lawyer with a resume that has touched many lives. If the lives that he has influenced were a golf hole it would be a par-7.
Doug taught law students for nearly four decades at Hamline, William Mitchell, Arizona Summit and UNLV. Hamline students elected him professor of the year in each decade. He took a two-year leave from teaching and was Counselor to the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of the United States (read that again!!). Later he ran for U.S. Senate.
Doug, who has a great sense of humor, jokes that he is a recovering politician. During his professor days, Doug spent his spare time writing thousands of page of law books and related articles. He has also written two books: A Political Campaign: Ecstasy and Agony, an honest and humorous memoir of his political campaign, and Chief Justice, a fast-paced mystery that reveals the inner life of the Supreme Court. (Doug’s book gives readers a history lesson in the Supreme Court. His attention to detail in character development shows his wordsmith genius.)
My fondest memory of Doug is the day that the Senior Tour stopped at the Lafayette Country Club. (I was running the West Division skins game.) There was a sizable pot. Doug scored the only skin worth $740. Every time I have seen Doug since that day I ask, “Have you spent all that skin money yet?” The giant smile on Doug’s face matches his giant 6’7” frame.
Doug and his wife Mary just returned from their winter home in Goodyear, AZ. The usually humble Doug boasted, “I finally shot my age this winter – 72 at age 73. I may never do it again, but I did it once.”
Doug grew up in Sioux Falls, SD where his parents were members of executive golf course. “I just played here and there with friends. I remember standing in front of the river trying to catch my mother’s bad shots. Never caught one! Not too smart to stand there anyway. In high school I was really into bowling, three leagues per week.”
“When I was in college, I took a golf class where the instructor told me, ‘Swing as hard as you can.’ I know that I have over swung my whole life.”
After law school in New York Doug returned to Minneapolis and started a law practice. “I bought a new set of clubs and took a few lessons. The pro told me, ‘If you practice, you might break 90.’”
With a young family Doug took a break from golf for about 10 years. Then he started playing the public courses. He joined the U of M Men’s’ Golf Club where he was a member from 1995 to 2002. “I remember shooting 77-77 in 2001 to win the first flight in the Club Championship. In 2002 I joined Dellwood Hills so my sons, both good players, could have a place to play and practice. They loved to play, and could have been scratch players, but they hated to practice.”
Doug got interested in the rules of golf and has worked several MGA events as a rules official. He got a big smile on his face when relating stories of being a driver for the European Ryder Cup Team in 2016. Doug’s eyes twinkled, “Sam Torrance, Vice Captain, was really nice and very funny. On Sunday night after the matches I drove an SUV with Danny Willet and Lee Westwood and their wives.” With tongue in cheek Doug said, “Let’s just say they had been doing their best to wash away the bad memories.”
When you see big Doug this summer in a Senior Tour event ask him what Westwood really said?