Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Lonnie Nielsen passes away

Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Lonnie Nielsen, originally from Belle Plaine, passed away on Wednesday, January 20, 2020, at the age of 67.

Nielsen is remembered for his enjoyment of music, playing cards, telling jokes, and eating ice cream. To know him was to love him. He was known for his infectious smile, quick wit, and sense of humor.

Nielsen grew up playing on sand greens in Belle Plaine and went on to attend the University of Iowa. He won several amateur events in Iowa, including the 1975 Iowa Amateur, and was named Iowa Player of the Year that year.

He turned pro in 1976 and competed for a brief time on the PGA Tour highlighted by two top ten finishes before pursuing a career as a club pro. Nielsen was a dominant player in the Western New York Section PGA winning its Section Championship nine times and the Match Play Championship 10 times from 1984 through 2002

Nielsen played the PGA Champions Tour beginning in 2006 through 2017, winning two titles and has amassed almost $5 million in winnings. Nielsen’s best year was 2008 when he finished 11th on the money list with over $1.2 million in cash.

He was inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2010.

Memorial Service:
Nielsen’s family plans to honor him at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. EST) on Monday, January 25th, in New York (you can find details by clicking on the obituary link below).  You can view a live stream of the service by visiting In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to PGA REACH WNY ( or the Association of Frontotemporal Degeneration ( 

Click here to view an online obituary for Nielsen.

We encourage you to share condolences and your favorite memories of Lonnie in the comments section below. We will share these memories with his wife Mary Jo and the Nielsen family.


  1. Jeff Smith says:

    For me Lonnie will always be remembered as a very humble, very kind person who’s golf game was the envy of many. I had the privilege of competing against Lonnie for several years in Iowa and he was always a great competitor and fun to be around away from the golf course. Lonnie had a long successful career as a PGA Club Professional and player in Western New York and that is a testament to his gift as a people person and skills as a player. May you rest in peace and peace and comfort to Mary Jo and family.

  2. Lonnie and Mary Jo were dear friends while both our families lived in Cedar Rapids, We spent many of nights out at the Cool Moo eating ice cream. I caddied for Lonnie at the 1983 US Open at Oakmont and went out each night for ice cream. Lonnie was such a good person and generous, he even came back one summer when I was the pro at Indian Creek just to do a clinic for us. I am so sad to hear this news, will miss our friendship and pray for Mary Jo and family. Rest In Peace Lon.

  3. Steve Kahler says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to MJ and family. We lost a great one! He was my friend, roommate and teammate. I remember playing against Lon in junior golf and he could hit it a mile but had no clue where it would go! By our freshman year at Iowa he transformed into a straight driver of the ball! His greatness began! Playing that exhibition with Nicklaus at Wakonda, making Q school, dominating the New York section and then winning twice on Senior tour … He’s got to rank up there with Zach and Jack Rule! Lon was a feel player with soft hands and his musical background was evident in his rhythmic swing and putting stroke! Rest In Peace Lon!

  4. Ross deBuhr says:

    My introduction to Lonnie Nielsen was when I arrived at the University of Iowa in 1973 with the goal to play on the Iowa Men’s Golf Team. I was privileged to play with Lon on the same team for 3 of the 4 years he played at Iowa. Lon was considered, and respected, as one of the elite players in the Big Ten at the time. I also remember Lon as a person who was so welcoming to everyone he met. He was just fun to be around. Probably one fond memory of such, was a time in Iowa City, most likely an Iowa home football weekend. Several of the Pike brothers and golf team members had met at someone’s apartment and a music contest started mid-evening. Lonnie and Mary Jo (his girlfriend at the time), both loved music, particularly songs of the era. The game was to name the song title in as few as notes as possible. Needless to say, Lonnie and Mary Jo were the last two standing. Unfortunately, my memory isn’t good enough to remember who won, but no one was as good as either Lon or Mary Jo. Before Lon turned professional, there were several of the Iowa players that participated in the “Iowa Tour” each summer. Lots of great memories being together and competing at those weekend tournaments. Needless to say, Lon won his fair share of those tournaments; majors and “minnows” included. It was certainly a privilege to witness first hand Lon’s golf game during a portion of his storied career, but even better to have know him as a great person. My condolences go out to Mary Jo and all their family during this difficult time.

  5. Jim Madsen says:

    I was paired with Lonnie at the Iowa State High School Championship for both our Junior and Senior years. He was a tremendous high school golfer and a wonderful competitor. He had wonderful support in the gallery from many of his friends from Belle Plaine.

    We continued a rivalry at junior tournaments during the summers. I went on to play at ISU so we would play against each other in college too. I always had the utmost respect for him as a golfer and a person. I enjoyed watching his success as a professional. Condolences to all who knew and loved him.

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