The following feature on the early days of the Iowa Women’s Golf Association was written by 11-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year Rick Brown and shared recently with Iowa Golf Association. The early history of the IWGA celebrates Women’s History Month in March and reminds ourselves of the accomplishments of women throughout the years to our culture and society.
Representatives from seven cities came to Waterloo on August 29, 1922, to make history. The Iowa Women’s Golf Association was formed, with Mrs. L.W. Bryant elected president.
Later that day, the first IWGA-conducted championship teed off. Margaret Addington of Waterloo was the low qualifier, shooting 96. She would go on to win the championship, beating Mrs. Frank C. Byers of Cedar Rapids, 4 and 3.
“Miss Addington apparently got the better of her opponent throughout, though the Cedar Rapids woman played a remarkable game,” read the newspaper dispatch.
Hyperion Field and Motor Club, outside Des Moines, hosted the second championship in August of 1923. Ruth Harwood of Des Moines won the title match, 6 and 5, over Mrs. Ward E. Baker of Cedar Rapids.
“Fully 500 eyes watched the pretty Country club girl ascend the championship throne on the thirteenth green when she dropped a neat putt into the cup, ending the title battle and defeating Mrs. Baker by a 6 and 5 score,” wrote Iowa Golf Hall of Famer Bert McGrane.
Both the 1922 and 1923 events were invitationals. The first true Women’s State Amateur championship took place in August of 1924 at the Cedar Rapids Country Club. The entry fee was 50 cents. Mrs. C.D. Waterman (pictured right) of Davenport beat Byers in a dramatic 19-hole match.
On the decisive hole, a 485-yard par-5, Waterman followed a 200-yard drive with a 150-yard brassie. Her third shot stopped 2 feet from the hole, and she knocked it in for the championship The Women’s State Amateur has been contested every year since, with the exception of a three-year break (1943-1945) because of World War II.
But women in Iowa were playing for championships as far back as 1902. The men’s Iowa Amateur included a women’s championship from 1902 to 1905. Ruth Crapo of Burlington won three of those five titles. A women’s championship was also conducted independently twice, with Jennie Jones of Sioux City taking the title at Waveland in Des Moines in 1913 and Elizabeth Allen of Davenport taking top honors in 1916 at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
Fourteen women entered the 1902 event at Burlington Golf Club. Nine were from Des Moines, three from Burlington and one each from Marshalltown and Keokuk. Rain was so heavy during the semifinals that Mrs. George Douglas of Cedar Rapids forfeited her match to Crapo. The Burlington Gazette called it “a wet and disagreeable course.’
Crapo captured the 1902 title, beating Anne B. Davis of Keokuk in the championship match, 6 and 5.
Davis was right in the middle of a major controversy a year later at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club. Davis was playing Mrs. W.E. Stalter in one of the semifinal matches. Davis had Stalter 4 down on the 13th, but Stalter won the next three holes. Here is a first-hand account of what happened next from the Des Moines Register and Leader:
“At the seventeenth hole Mrs. Stalter’s caddie was holding the flag while Miss Davis made a short approach from off the green. The caddie failed to get the flag staff out of the way in time, although he had it in his hands, and Miss Davis’ ball hit the staff and was deflected a short distance from the hole. Her approach was perfect as far as direction was concerned and possibly might have holed out had the flag staff been removed.”
Stalter immediately filed a protest as they headed to the 18th tee.
“Upon arriving at the club house a decision, said to have been unauthorized, was made in Mrs. Stalter’s favor, thus giving her the seventeenth hole,” the newspaper’s first hand account continued. “As the last hole was halved, the match was even, under this ruling, and the playing of an extra hole was necessary.”
They headed to a 19th hole, and again controversy joined the party. Mrs. Stalter sliced her approach and her ball hit Davis, who tried to get out of the way. Stalter was awarded the hole and the match.
But when they returned to the clubhouse, what happened on the 17th hole remained in question “and no one felt qualified to pass upon the question and there the matter rests and a decision will be announced this morning.”
Stalter was awarded the match the next day, after a decision by the grounds committee of the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.The committee ruled it would be “unsportsmanlike to penalize for a technicality which did not seem to be covered satisfactorily by the United States golf rules.”
Stalter advanced to the championship, where she defeated Mrs. F.W. Chamberlain of Burlington, 2 and 1. Davis did get some revenge that summer. She beat Stalter, 3 and 2, in the Trans-Mississippi title match in Omaha.
Eight women entered the 1904 event at Happy Hollow in Dubuque. One of the entires was Myrtle Travis, a cousin of three-time U.S. Amateur champion Walter J. Travis.
Crapo won her second title, beating Genevieve Ryan of Dubuque in the final. She added a third crown the following year at Burlington Golf Club, but controversy was again part of the story.
“(Chamberlain) was runner up and would probably have won had it not been for a misunderstanding of rules,” the Des Moines Register and Leader reported.
On the first extra hole, Crapo drove into a pond. Instead of taking a drop where her ball entered the hazard, she took a drop from the side of the pond. She went on to win the hole and the match.
No rules breach was reported.
The men’s championship stopped conducting a women’s event in 1906. But organizers held a championship in 1913 at Waveland. It was touted as the “first women’s title ever contested in Iowa.”
Jones (pictured left) beat Mrs. W.F. Moore of Des Moines, 8 and 6, in the final.
Another championship took place in 1916, but Jones wasn’t there to defend her title. She was killed in an automobile accident in downtown Sioux City on May 18, 1916.
Alen won the 1916 championship at Des Moines Golf and Country Club by beating Mrs. Fred Letts of Cedar Rapids, 2 up.
Allen had been 2 down at one point in the match. Over tea afterwards, one fan asked Allen how she had kept her nerve when she fell behind.
“This is a lesson I learned long ago,” Allen told her. “You never can tell what is going to happen and now I always play as well as I can, no matter how the score stands.”
More than a century later, that remains good advice.