Centenarian Roseville golfer honored with bench at Gross

Mike Munzenrider photos Peggy Doi showed her father, Bill Doi, a bench she and family members and the Minnesota Nikkei Project donated to Gross National Golf Course in his honor, on Oct. 24.

The plaque on the bench says, “While resting on this bench you might still see a centenarian golfer. In honor of Bill Doi. Founding member of the Minnesota Nikkei Project. Whose love of golf is exceeded only by his devotion to family, friends and those who have been touched by his love and service to our community.”

Doi, 101 years old, hit a couple tee shots, for good measure.

Roseville resident Bill Doi took up golfing at age 75. 

Now, 26 years later, a bench at Gross National Golf Course in Minneapolis honors his love for the game, as well as his devotion to family, friends and community service.

Doi’s daughter, Dede, said her 101-year-old father doesn’t hit the links so much anymore at Gross, only because the course is a tad too long. 

Instead, he’s taken to golfing at Roseville’s par-3 Cedarholm Golf Course — the length is a bit more manageable.

Doi, three of his daughters and friends gathered at Gross Oct. 24 to dedicate the bench, which was donated to the golf course by the Doi family and the Minnesota Nikkei Project.

Doi was a founding member of the Nikkei Project, which began in 1978. The nonprofit organization works to serve seniors of Japanese descent who live in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. 

A Minneapolis School of Art and Design graduate and a longtime fixture in the Minneapolis advertising scene, Doi ended up in the Twin Cities during the height of World War II when he arrived here for Military Intelligence Service training with the U.S. Army.

Before that, he was one of the 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated in camps on the West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor, plucked out of art school in Seattle. He was born in 1916 on a farm in Washington state.

Paul Asao, who said he last golfed with Doi two weeks prior, was there for the bench dedication. Asao said he works in the ad business and a couple decades back, early in his career, Doi took him under his wing.

The two reconnected through Minnesota Nikkei Project work, and found they have a shared interest in golfing.

Asao said people frequently approach them out on the course, and are blown away that Doi has lived a century’s worth of life, and is still hitting balls.

Another of Doi’s daughter’s, Peggy, said the bench dedication was in the works for a year, first planned for when her father was 100 years old; his birthday is Aug. 31.

As for Doi, he said he was surprised by the bench and that it was “really something.”

“I certainly never expected something like this, nor think I deserve this,” he said.

Peggy showed her father the bench, and she, her sisters and father posed for pictures together while sitting on it.

Despite a stiff and chilly wind, that Tuesday was an otherwise gorgeous day. Doi had already remarked that, because of the weather, his golfing days were over for the season, but his kids had other plans.

Ready with a driver they’d given him for his 100th birthday while celebrating out in Palm Springs, and with some tees and balls smuggled into the Gross clubhouse in a purse, the group headed out to a tee box so Doi could hit some drives.

Both looked good.


Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813


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