In the early 1970s, Bud Chapman took a break from his career as a commercial artist to hunt for treasure.
His subsequent unsuccessful search for gold and silver in the mountains of New Mexico left him broke. Out of the financial despair, the golfing enthusiast found inspiration.
Chapman told the Star Tribune in 2004 that he asked himself a question: “I’m an artist. Why not paint 18 great golf holes — unbelievable, demanding holes — set in the best scenery in the world?”
The result of that introspection became “18 Infamous Golf Holes” and earned Chapman international fame.
Chapman, of Minnetonka, died July 9 after a heart attack. He was 97.
“He loved golf,” said friend Richard Walker, “but it was all about people for him. He was a magnet. He made every person feel like they were special. That gift supersedes his skill as an artist. How he treated people, to me, is the most remarkable thing about him.”
Chapman completed his first “infamous” painting — a mythical Victoria Falls Golf Course — in 1972. Over the next 10 years he painted 17 more holes. He sent the first four paintings to Golf Digest, which gave him a free ad in exchange for the publishing rights.
The remaining holes were published in Golf Digest in installments and were eventually published internationally by Reader’s Digest.
Walker recalled the first time he met Chapman. “He was on the driving range, and [golfer] Tom Fleming told me, ‘I’m about to introduce you to a legend.’ Bud greeted me and instantly made me feel like I was his best friend.”
Chapman was born to Arthur and Lillie Chapman on Jan. 27, 1923, in Minneapolis. His interest in golf started at the age of 10 as a caddie at Interlachen Country Club. He soon became the favorite caddie of future World Golf Hall of Fame member Patty Berg.
He graduated from Minneapolis Central High School in 1941. During World War II, he served in the Navy Air Corps, flying trainers, and then the Army Air Corps, flying B-29s. He started his art career by creating a comic strip called “Willie Washout” for military newspapers.
After his discharge, he attended Walker Art School in Minneapolis, and then opened his own studio as a commercial artist.
“I went with him once to studio and watched him painting,” Walker said. “You could not see his fingers move. It was that detailed. He was an absolute artist with absolute patience.”
Chapman was also an accomplished amateur golfer. He won the Minnesota Senior Amateur Championship in 1978 and 1990 and the Minnesota Senior Open in 1989. He was named the MGA Senior Player of the Year four times (1978, 1984, 1989 and 1990) to become the only golfer to win the award in three different decades. He was elected to the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame in 1994.
He was still golfing regularly and routinely shooting better than his age. In 2015, at the age of 92, he shot a 71.
“Whether he was shooting an 80 or 64, he never displayed his displeasure,” said his son David. “He was just happy to be on the course.”
Last year, Chapman published “The World of Golf According to Loyal H. Chapman.”
In addition to his son David, of Minnetonka, Chapman is survived by son Greg of Minnetonka, daughters Julie of Live Oak. Fla., and Jennifer of Carlsbad, Calif.; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Wife Mildred “Mitzi” Chapman died in 2011.
A celebration of his life will be held at later date.
Joel Rippel • 612-673-4719