Author: iowagolf

‘Up and Down’ the Iowa Golf Scene – Hard work pays off

Barb Thomas Whitehead (left) poses with daughters Emma, Sarah and husband Trent at their Phoenix home.

From Sibley to the LPGA Tour – Barb Thomas Whitehead Fulfills Her Dream

Growing up on one of Iowa’s venerable 9-hole golf courses, Barb Thomas Whitehead dreamed of one day playing the LPGA Tour. Years later, the Sibley native proved that thanks to hard work, determination, a great short game, faith and natural ability, the dreams of a small-town Iowa girl can come true.

Barb’s prodigious short game was honed as a youngster at the Sibley Golf Course.

Now 62 years of age, Whitehead recently reflected on a golf career that included distinguished achievement at the prep, collegiate and professional levels during an interview with Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene.

“We lived two blocks away from the Sibley Golf Course,” Whitehead recalled about her early days of golf, when her parents introduced her to the game at age eight. “I’d strap clubs on my shoulder, ride my bike to the club and play until noon. In those days, the course had a rule that youngsters were required to play with an adult after 12 o’clock. I’d work on chipping and putting until an adult would show up for me to join up with.”

The Sibley course featured three par 3’s, two par 5’s, one sand trap and no driving range. An open field adjacent to the course served as the driving range where Whitehead would sharpen her ball striking skills while shagging her own practice balls.

“I played other sports, including the old six-on-six basketball format for Iowa girls, but golf was my true love,” said Whitehead. “I’d play from sunup to sundown. And after watching and being inspired by the Colgate-Dinah Shore tournament in junior high, I set my sights to play the LPGA Tour.”

Big dreams for a youngster coming from a small town and from a state that is not well known for producing touring professionals. Only a handful of native Iowans have competed on the LPGA Tour. They include Judy Kimball Simon of Sioux City, who captured three tournament victories highlighted by the 1962 LPGA Championship; Beth Bader, a Davenport native who played to the tour for ten years and amassed over a million dollars in winnings; and Waterloo’s Andy Cohn, who played the tour in the early to mid-1960’s before becoming a teaching professional. In addition, Dot Germain, who moved from Atlantic to Owensboro, KY at the age of 14, played the tour for 15 years.

Fast forward to the fall of 1983, following standout prep and collegiate careers, Whitehead’s dream of playing on the LPGA Tour suddenly came down to the final hole in the qualifying school at Sweetwater Country Club in Sugarland, TX, then home of the LPGA prior to its move to Daytona Beach. Once safely inside the cut line in the middle of her final round, the high stakes pressure mounted down the stretch.

The University of Tulsa captured the 1982 NCAA Championship, led by Barb Thomas Whitehead’s third place finish in the medalist standings.

“I started making bogies, and then a double bogey and all of a sudden the wheels are off,” recalled Whitehead. “I got to the last hole knowing I needed to make something happen. Go figure, I holed a bunker shot for a closing birdie, and qualified for the Tour on the number. Not bad for a kid who grew up on a course with one sand trap.”

Whitehead’s dramatic entry on the LPGA Tour was a springboard for an 18-year career that was highlighting with her victory at the 1995 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open. That year, she also recorded her top finish in a major, a tie for sixth at the LPGA Championship and finished 31st on the money list. In 1996, Whitehead lost in a playoff at the State Farm Rail Classic and recorded six other top 10 finishes for her best-ever 24th ranking on the money list.

She noted the many contrasts in life on the Tour decades ago compared to today.

“The girls are playing for so much more money now, so much more exposure and pressure,” Whitehead said. “With progress comes a few negatives. It likely takes $100,000 in expenses to break even, and most players now come to the tour with ‘teams’ behind them, such as trainers, psychologists, and managers. I started my LPGA career with about $15,000 in local sponsorships.”

What a time to be alive Whitehead recalled.

“We had a special brand of camaraderie back then resembled a traveling band of gypsies” she said. “In many events, we stayed in private housing or doubled up with other players in hotels to save on expenses. During rain delays, we would gather together in the clubhouse for hours. On off days we would go to the movies or play tennis together. We played in many cities with the population ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 where we were the biggest ticket in town. There were great crowds and signs all over welcoming the LPGA and its players.”

Barb is all smiles as she hoists the trophy for capturing the 1996 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open.

Whitehead knew there was something special in the making during her formative years when her game advanced quickly and she started to shoot par in her early teens on the Sibley course. She went on to capture the 1978 and 1979 Iowa Girls Junior and Iowa High School Girls High School golf championships and qualified for the 1979 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Luverne, MN, native Jerilyn Britz. She added the Iowa Women’s Amateur titles in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Despite a notable prep career, Whitehead flew mostly below the collegiate recruiting radar with just a handful of offers. She joined the Iowa State University Women’s Golf Team, coached by Hawarden native Joan Gearhart, and made an instant impact.

“I had a great experience at Iowa State,” said Whitehead, who was named All-American in 1980. “My decision to leave was based on wanting to give myself the best opportunity to play professionally and work on my game year-round.”

Enter The University of Tulsa, a perennial power in AIAW and NCAA women’s golf circles. She joined legendary coach Dale McNamara’s squad, a team populated with many future LPGA players. The Golden Hurricane captured the 1982 NCAA championship with Thomas finishing third in the medalist standings, as well as the AIAW title. Her teammates were the likes of future LPGA professionals Kathy Baker, Dee Dee Lasker, LuLong Hartley and Jody Rosenthal.

“Our team was so deep that we had to requalify for the next tournament if you finished outside of the top three and all five of our squad members played the tour,” she said.

While in college, Whitehead’s life would also take a dramatic turn spiritually. It was teammate Baker, who would later go on to capture the 1985 U.S. Women’s Open, who helped open a door that would change Whitehead’s life.

“Kathy came back from a Bible study and posed a question to me that I’d never heard before,” she said. “She asked if I died today, where would I spend eternity. I became a follower of Christ, and it changed the trajectory of my life.”

Her personal faith became the guidepost for many life choices, including service to others. For many years, Whitehead spearheaded pro-amateur fundraising golf events for two special charities, the Osceola Regional Health Center in Sibley (where her father was a physician) and Camp Foster at Lake Okoboji, an organization close to her heart. About a dozen LPGA professionals would join her for those events which raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Today, Whitehead resides in Phoenix, AZ area with her husband Trent and daughters Sarah and Emma. She credits the Iowa Women’s Golf Association for providing opportunities to play tournament golf and spark her competitive spirit.

She also offers younger players the following advice.

“Work hard on your short game, especially shots around the green to save strokes – a missed putt counts the same as a three-hundred-yard drive. Enjoy and respect the game and have fun.”

“Up and Down” the Iowa Golf Scene

A regular feature column written by IGA Foundation board member Mark Gambaiana, Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene is designed to take the reader beyond the headlines and scoreboards to share stories of those who help make Iowa golf so rich and rewarding. Profiles will spotlight those who advance the game through volunteerism, service, extraordinary achievement, competition, human interest and the many other dimensions of golf in Iowa.

Click the links below to read previous Up and Down features
– IGA Rules Official Sean Flanders
– R&A, USGA Champion Gene Elliott
– Nervig Reflects on Decades of Service to The Iowa Masters
– Arseneault Finds Fulfillment in Life’s Next Chapter After Competitive Golf
– Ivan Miller remembers the days of the Minnows
– Kinney adjusts to life on tour
– Standard Golf’s roots run deep
– Pettersen sets sights high
– McCoy, Norton Put Iowa Stamp on Florida Senior Golf
Moreland Reflects on his Extraordinary Club Pro, Playing Career

McCoy ready to lead U.S. Team at 49th Walker Cup

(Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

This year’s Walker Cup will be a centennial celebration at St. Andrews. One hundred years ago, the second edition of the biennial competition between the United States and a team from Great Britain and Ireland was contested over the Old Course. And the two events a century apart nearly had a former Iowa Amateur champion involved.

Mike McCoy of Des Moines, who played on the 2015 Walker Cup team and is the 2023 captain, won the Iowa Amateur six times.

After being an alternate in 1922, Rudy Knepper of Sioux City was named to the 1923 Walker Cup team on Feb. 15, 2023. According to a story in the Des Moines Register the following day, “Rudy has petitioned the board of directors of Princeton University, where he is a student, for a leave of absence which it is believed will be granted.”

But Knepper, who won the Iowa Amateur for a third straight year in 1922 and also won the Trans-Mississippi championship that summer, was denied that waiver by Princeton and had to withdraw from the competition. The same thing happened to Bobby Jones, whose waiver request was turned down by Georgia Tech.

McCoy is the second Iowan to represent his country in the competition as a player and captain. Dr. Edgar Updegraff of Boone played on Walker Cup teams in 1963, 1965 and 1969. He served as captain in 1975.

Clark Burroughs, who attended high school in Waterloo, played on the 1985 Walker Cup team.

The Walker Cup of one of the four elite team events in golf. The others are the Ryder Cup, the Curtis Cup and the Solheim Cup.

Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids will become the first Iowan to captain a Ryder Cup team when the United States squares off against Europe in Rome Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Johnson is also the only Iowan to represent his country as a player in the Ryder Cup, making the team in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The Curtis Cup, like the Walker Cup, brings together the nation’s elite amateur players. Lucile Robinson Mann of Des Moines played on the 1934 team. Ann Casey Johnstone of Mason City was selected three times, in 1958, 1960 and 1962. Phyllis Otto Germain of Atlantic was named to the team in 1946. But that competition was not held because of World War II.

No Iowan has ever played in the Solheim Cup, but the state does have a connection to the event. The 2017 Solheim Cup was played at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

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Huseman, Eddie take home Briarwood Am titles, Brooks leaves no doubt

Andrew Huseman (right) dug deep in the final round of the 2023 Briarwood Amateur at Briarwood Country Club, Ankeny to snatch his third career title at the event. The Ankeny native previously won in 2013 and in 2021.

His 69-66 (-9) 135 total earned him a four stroke win over Des Moines’ Ethan Mechling at (-5) 139. Ankeny’s Jon Olson, defending champion, finished third at (-3) 141.

In the Senior Division, Storm Lake’s Steve Eddie won in a playoff over Urbandale’s Ron Peterson after both players shot (-2) 142. A difficult final nine holes for Eddie, which he played 3-over par, including a bogey-bogey finish, resulted in the tie. At the same time, Peterson battled back with a -2 final nine to catch up with Eddie.

West Des Moines’ Bob Brooks absolutely obliterated the Super Senior Division. A 63-63 (-18) 126 secured his title by thirteen strokes over Des Moines’ Dave Gaer in second place. A bogey-free final round complete with seven birdies and an eagle comprises his unbelievable scorecard.

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Steve Eddie

Bob Brooks

Two sides advance from U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Qualifier hosted by CRCC

Birdies were to be had at U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Qualifying hosted by Cedar Rapids Country Club. This is turn led to a packed leaderboard.

The side of Matt Meuret / Sam Meuret (right) earned medalist honors, posting 64 (-8), one shot clear of four sides that would playoff for the final qualifying spot.

“We got off to a shaky start but each of us scratched out a well-timed par to keep us on track until we made quite a few birdies in the middle of the round,” Sam said. “Matt can putt circles around me, so it was fun to have his putter on my side for a change and he bailed us out a couple times late in the to put up a good score.”

Sam, who raddled off six birdies in a row at one point, commented that it will be a treat to play at the national championship with his brother.

“Playing in any USGA championship is a great experience but being able to do it with my brother will make it extra special,” Sam said.

As mentioned, a total of four sides finished the day at 65 (-7) and a playoff was needed to identify the final qualifier.

The side of Charlie Jacobson / Ryan Trasamar (right) wasted little time and made birdie on the first hole of the playoff to punch their ticket the the 2024 championship. Marc Gladson / Nate Dunn earned first alternate and Ethan Mechling / JD Anderson earned second alternate.

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Peters joins father as Iowa Senior Amateur Champion, Norton plays steady in SS Division

Ben Peters (left) joins his father, John, as an Iowa Senior Amateur champion. John won titles in 1998, 2004 and 2007.

Ben Peters survived.

Both the hot conditions as well as the difficult challenge Dubuque Golf & CC offered during the 45th Iowa Senior Amateur. Closing with a pair of 68s, Peters admitted it was the birdies coming home in the opening round after a rocky start that was the key to the week for him.

“It was a rough start for me on the first day,” Peters said. “I settled down with the putter a little bit and ball striking got better each day. It was a fun, hot week. I didn’t expect my second round score (68) to leapfrog me up the leaderboard as much as it did. It was such a difficult day. Those birdies coming in on the first day made the difference.”

Peters, who knew he had to stay patient at Dubuque G&CC, played his final 41 holes of the championship at -7, good for a three shot victory.

“Sometimes good shots here don’t turn out as well as you might think they should,” Peters said. “You have to stay below the hole. It’s a fun, old golf course.”

The heat, reaching into the triple digits at times, was also a hurdle for the field.

“The first day was more of a shock to the system,” Peters said “I was a little more prepared the second day. You knew what you were going to face (with the weather).”

With a two-shot lead heading into the final round over Ron Peterson, Peters knew he wasn’t going to have the luxury of coasting to the finish line.

“It was a back and forth most of the day with Ron,” Peters said. “I was able to make a couple nice putts out there. I knew I was going to need to make a birdie to make sure it went my well and I was able to on 17.”

Peters now joins his father, John, as an Iowa Senior Amateur champion. John won the event a total of three times – in 1998, 2004 and 2007. Peters also becomes the first person not names Elliott, McCoy or Palmer to win the event going back to 2013.

“This is a special for both of us to have out name on the trophy,” Ben said when asked about adding his name to the trophy along this his father.

Ben’s daughter, Maura, added a victory early in the summer at the Iowa Junior Girls’ Amateur, so Ben might of been feeling a little pressure to have a spot for his own trophy at home.

“You never know what is around the corner,” Peters said.

In the Super Senior Division, Tom Norton (right) played steady – posting 71 all three days of the event, with was good for a four shot win over Dave Baer.

“With the heat and these greens are severe enough I was happy with my score,” Norton said.

The coursed was something that looked good to Norton’s eye and he took advantage.

“This course suites me well, it’s tight and not long,” Norton said. “I just tried to keep it in the fairway. I didn’t three putt a bunch. I had the good fortune of making a few birdies the first two days. None today, but I had 17 pars. I never felt stressed today, it got within shot, but I was comfortable making pars.”

Figuring out the tough greens at Dubuque G&CC was also a key for Norton.

“You have to read greens well to have success here. This is my first stroke play victory. I have been second to Gene (Elliott) a few times, which is nothing to hang your head about, but I was happy to get it done.”

Norton admitted he took special precaution with the heat during he week and didn’t show up unprepared for the conditions.

“About 10 years I had a heat stroke, so I have to be careful. I kept an ice cooler with me and stay hydrated enough. The body felt better during the last round (with the weather not being as hot).”

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Peters takes lead into final round at 45th Iowa Senior Amateur, Norton looks to close

One more day.

It’s a packed leaderboard at Dubuque Golf & CC after two days of play at the 45th Iowa Senior Amateur. Players battled steamy, unpleasant at times conditions again during the second round of play, but Bettendorf’s Ben Peters found a recipe for success – good enough for a 68 (-2) to vault him into the lead by one heading in the final round.

Opening round co-leader Chris Kramer sits just a shot back of Peters’ lead, as does Ron Peterson. Peterson turned in a fine second round score himself – 70 (E). Another five players find themselves all within no more than five shots off the pace, including opening round co-leader Bill Matzdorff, who will start the final round +5.

A pair of 71s from Tom Norton put him into the lead in the Super Senior Division. Norton leads by a pair of strokes over Dave Baer and Bob Brooks. Rob Pomerantz, who fired a spectacular 67 (-3) in the second round, is just four shots back of the lead and will look to make a move up the leaderboard in the final round.

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Kramer, Matzdorff lead at 45th Iowa Senior Amateur, Gaer paces Super Seniors

Bill Tank surveys his next shot during the opening round of the 45th Iowa Senior Amateur hosted by Dubuque Golf & CC.

Battling the hot, at times unbearable conditions most of the day was the true test during the opening round of the 45th Iowa Senior Amateur hosted by Dubuque Golf & CC.

West Des Moines’ Chris Kramer and Ankeny’s Bill Matzdorff found the most success posting rounds of 71 (+1). Kramer’s round included a pair of birdies to offset a trio of bogeys. Meanwhile, Matzdorff made three birdies aginst four bogeys on the day. Two players, Gary Ellis (Norwalk) and Dustin Hall (Monticello) sit just a shot back at +2. Three players give chase as well at +3.

In the Super Senior Division, Dave Gaer, of Des Moines, turned in the round of the day with 69 (-1). Gaer was able to make three birdies and only make a pair of bogeys during his round. Gaer commented he was pleased with his round and was glad to be inside and out of the heat after turning in his scorecard.

Muscatine’s Tom Norton fired 71 (+1) and is just a shot back of Gaer’s lead. Sam Aossey (Cedar Rapids) shot 72 (+2), while Bob Brooks (West Des Moines) and Mark Wessels (Dyersville) both finished with 73 (+3) and are well within reach of the lead.

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Three advance from U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur hosted by DMGCC

The course didn’t let up.

That was the story at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur qualifier contested at Des Moines Golf & Country Club.

With winds swirling and pars coming at a premium, three players advanced to the national championship – Leeann Fairlie (78), Claudia Pilot (79) and Rose Kubesheski (80).

Oklahoma City’s Fairlie, who stayed away from the double bogey or worse all day earned medalist, while Rio Verde’s Pilot admitted she played 17 ‘good’ holes of golf, with only one disaster coming on the 14th hole.

Dubuque’s Kubesheski looked to be sailing smooth through 12 holes before the bogey train arrived, but a birdie on the 17th hole helped ease the pain of her finish, with a double bogey on 18, and left her one shot clear of fourth place and good enough for the last qualifying spot.

Elizabeth Wanek earned 1st Alternate position in a playoff, while Robin Webb earned 2nd Alternate.

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Leeann Fairlie (left) and Claudia Pilot


Rose Kubesheski

Champions crowned at 62nd IGA Women’s Club Team championship

Hyperion Field Club beat out defending champion Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course in the 62nd IGA Women’s Club Team championship at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids.

Hyperion’s gross four-under finish in the tournament was led by Jennie Jackson at (+1) 71 and Jen Jemmers at (+2) 72. Erin Schaffer carded a (+4) 74 and Michaela Smith  pitched in with a (+8) 78, scoring the most birdies of the team.

While Hyperion also won the net division at seven-under, their victory in the gross division gave the net title to runner-up Des Moines Golf and Country Club at five-under.

The Des Moines Golf net scores featured Kelly Dettbarn at (E) 70, Barb Burley at (+2) 72, Leighann Larocca at (+7) 77, and Amy Fox at (+11) 81.

Glen Oaks’ Paige Hoffman ran away with a six-shot win in the individual gross tournament. Six birdies and a single bogey led to her (-5) 65 round. The short course played to her advantage as she was able to approach greens with short pitches and chips.

Irv Warren’s Lindsay Burry and Kelly Nelson tied for second at (+1) 71 along with Hyperion’s Jennie Jackson.

Noreen Christians, of LPGA Amateurs – Des Moines, won the individual net tournament with a (-2) 68. Des Moines Golf’s Kelly Dettbarn was close behind at (-1) 69, followed by Burlington Golf Club’s Lisa Griswold at (E) 70.

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Hansen battles back, wins 74th Herman Sani Tournament

Waverly’s Hogan Hansen (right) turned a three-stroke deficit into a three-stroke victory at the 74th Herman Sani Tournament presented by Coppola Enterprises, held at Hyperion Field Club. Trumping a field of amateurs and professionals, Hansen adds another title to the list of Hawkeye winners this summer. After strong performances throughout the season on the IGA circuit, Hansen finally broke through with a victory at his last tournament of the summer.

A (-10) 68-69-69, three-round total of 206 was sufficient to win with Hyperion playing more difficult than expected. Hansen was neck-to-neck with Solon’s Isaiah Zoske throughout most of the round. Although he never checked the leaderboard until he was signing his scorecard, he could tell that he was in the running.

A late bogey on Hole 17 threatened a possible playoff, but Hansen kept his cool with a par on Hole 18 and let things take their course. Zoske, who was tied for the lead heading into Hole 16, finished bogey, double, bogey and fell to T4.

Hansen, known as a long hitter, made the most of his power with Hyperion’s short Par 4s and reachable 5s. Several drivable Par 4s gave Hansen short chip shots into the green and helped to avoid the worst of the greens. Hitting second-shot irons into Par 5s and “not having to hit long clubs into the greens” obviously gave him an advantage.

Although Hansen (left) wasn’t satisfied with his putting performance, simply surviving Hyperion’s fast and tricky to read greens was enough of a challenge and essential to scoring.

“The greens are always a great test,” Hansen reflected. “I use Aim Point. Everybody says the greens break towards camp dodge, but I just stuck to feeling my feet.”

With solid putting, Hansen cracked a hot start during his final round with three birdies in his first five holes.

Zoske deserves credit for a terrific overall performance. Even after an early double on Hole 3, he found his footing and went -2 on his next twelve holes. The high school junior and long time competitor hit a growth spurt this past year and his distance reflects it, as he rivals his collegiate counterparts off the tee. While his consistency is still being refined, his performance at the Sani is auspicious despite his last-minute falter. Leading a field of collegiate, high-level amateur, and professional players deserves high praise.

Former Panther golfer Thomas Storbeck, of Ventura, tied with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) golfer Anthoney Ruthey, of Port Byron, for runner-up at (-7) 209. Professionals Andrew Petersen, of Bondurant, and Charles Jahn, of Sperry, tied for the low-professional score at (-6) 210. Overall, they joined Ankeny’s Connor Peck, Zoske, and Norwalk’s Patrick Hall at T4.

In the Senior Amateur Division, Adel’s Jon Brown triumphed over Lineville’s Jay Gregory (both pictured right) in a one-hole playoff. The pair finished at (-6) 210, seven strokes ahead of the field. Gregory, whose approach bounced over the green on Hole 17 in the playoff, drained a bomb of a putt to save par, but Brown outdid him with a birdie. Brown won the Herman Sani Tournament in the Open Overall Division back in 1993, with the exact same score.

Des Moines’ Rob Pomerantz took over the Super Senior Amateur Division with a (+2) 218 total, seven strokes ahead of runners-up West Des Moines’ Bob Brooks, Marshalltown’s Rob Christensen, and Polk City’s Joe Ward at (+9) 225. Pomerantz improved every round, carding 76-72-70.

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