Michigan Women’s Golf Association
Reflections by Sara Wold
Prior to 1986, the only organized golf for women golfers, who were not members of a private club in Michigan, was a few company and golf course leagues. The Women’s Metropolitan League, the Suburban League, and the Tee Set in Detroit, played during the week, which left no opportunities for working women. Occasionally, a course would host a women’s scramble on a weekend. Dee Klockow, whom I met at Rackham, Julia Garcia, a product of the Flint JR. Golf Program, and Betty Smith and I from Leslie Park would play in the scrambles wherever we could find them. We would go as far as Sandusky, Ohio to play in a scramble.
In 1974 - 1981, I was on a Detroit Recreation Department Committee to promote women’s sports and we decided to host a women’s golf tournament in 1977, and I was appointed chairman. I had gotten to know some of the Metropolitan ladies and learned that the USGA was starting the US WAPL (Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship) that summer. Evelyn Denton, a member of the Women’s Metropolitan Golf League, was the first Committee Member in Michigan, and was conducting a sectional qualifier for the Championship. It was the first opportunity women public golfers had to compete on a National level. Evelyn was kind to advise me in conducting my first tournament.
Janina Jacobs qualified many times for the US WAPL Championship and I qualified in 1982 and 1984. In ‘84 the sectional was held at a course in Washington, MI. The clubhouse reeked of cigar smoke and the hamburgers were green. To our dismay, several regular foursomes of old men, who smoked cigars, were allowed to go in front of our designated tee times. Every foursome hit into a ditch and delayed our play even more. The last group commented to those of us in the first WAPL threesome, “Dearies, you will be late getting home to cook your hubbie’s dinner.” The course had the sprinklers on all during our round. There were only 13 women attempting to qualify and the best college player was disgusted with her game and didn’t hole out; so Dee Klockow and I qualified and went to the Championship in South Dakota.
Dee and I did not play well in the two rounds of stroke play and did not qualify for match play. We sat outside the clubhouse on a log and lamented that there must be better golfers in Michigan than us. I spoke to Martha Martin, the General Chairman, that we could do better in Michigan, and she appointed me to the Committee. Dee and I were determined to get a better course and many more players.
In 1985, we decided to have three sectionals in Michigan, after all it is a big state. Dee got Faulkwood Shores in Howell, and I got Gaylord Country Club in Northern Michigan and Saskatoon Golf Course, near Grand Rapids. Next we contacted every league and women’s golf group we knew of and, if we didn’t know one in an area, we called the chamber of commerce and got the name of a prominent lady golfer. We had 87 entries in the Detroit area, the largest number of entries in all 34 Qualifying sites! There were 5 entries at Gaylord CC and 3 entries at Saskatoon. It caught the attention of the Executive Director of GAM, Jeff Rivard, who came out to officiate for us, and Jack Berry of the Detroit Free Press.
Jack Berry came out to the Qualifier and wrote a nice column about the event. During the interview, Jack asked me when we would have the first women’s publinks state tournament. Not wanting to admit I hadn’t thought of it, I told him it would be at Bedford Valley in Battle Creek in August! The men’s senior publinks had their state tournament in August at Gull Lake and the wives were getting together to play nearby at Bedford Valley.
Many of the players in the qualifiers expressed an interest in having more golf tournaments and offered to help – Nancy Abbeg, Sallie Campbell, Evelyn Denton, Mary Cunningham, Shirley Estabrooks, Kathy Heriford, Tanya Hurley, Dee Klockow, Pat Meyers, Oleane Pearsall, Joyce Ouimet, Betty Smith, and Tia Watson. There were 84 players in the first State Tournament at Bedford Valley and Carol Trombley was the Champion. We also conducted a successful stroke play tournament, a couples tournament, and a 3 lady scramble that fall.
The ladies were hungry for more competition. I invited those that helped with the additional tournaments and added Mary Fossum, MSU Golf Coach, Sue LeClair, U of M Golf coach, Bernice Henderson and Livinia Wingo from the Tee Set, Reva Palmer from Sarnia, and Kitty Stromberg from Flint to the committee. We met in my apartment in Ann Arbor on a snowy winter day, February 15, 1986, and decided to form the Michigan Women’s Publinks Golf Association starting that spring. Thanks to the foresight and hard work of these women, the Michigan Women’s Golf Association, a Driving Force For Women’s Golf, has provided playing opportunities and grown the game for women and girls in Michigan.
April 24, 2016