Featuring 100 Women: Driving Change

Celebrating Iowa’s Female Golf Visionaries

As the wheels of time turn and the landscapes of golf evolve, it’s important to acknowledge the dedicated individuals who have steered the sport’s path in Iowa through the years. From the inception of the Iowa Golf Association and Iowa Women’s Golf Association to the game today, a lineage of passionate stewards have navigated the challenges of organizing championships, rating courses and crafting indispensable yearly directories.

The Iowa Women’s Golf Association was initially formed in 1922, with Mrs. L.W. Bryant, Mrs. Don Donnan and Mrs. Walter Cherry serving as president, vice president, and treasurer, respectively. That same day, the inaugural Iowa Women’s Amateur teed off at Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo, the first of many historical steps for women’s golf in Iowa. Although the first official charter year for the IWGA was 1955, members worked hard to grow the game for girls and women across the state.

As time went on, more championships for women were added to the summer schedule. The first new arrival was the Iowa Junior Girls’ Amateur in 1952. Over the next 17 years, women would see five more championships added with the inception of the Iowa Wife/Husband, Women’s Club (State) Team, Women’s Forever 39 Match Play, Iowa Senior Women’s Amateur, and Junior Girls’ Four-State. The IWGA’s most recent additions introduced were the IGA Women’s Four-Ball in 2010 and the IGA Women’s Match Play in 2012.

With the addition of new championships, the workload for IWGA board members increased tremendously as the years went on. It was custom that each board member was assigned a women’s championship each season. Once assigned, that board member was in charge of securing host sites, creating tournament flyers, coordinating with the host club’s head pro, and communicating tournament schedules with players. While the annual assignments rotated, the chair of the Iowa Junior Girls’ remained consistent for many years.

Corkey Nydle was instrumental in expanding playing opportunities for girls in Iowa. She was present at the inaugural Iowa Junior Girls’ Amateur. Though historical records indicate it was initially played in 1952 at Ames Golf and Country Club, former historian Sally Sharp believes it began in 1951 at Pine Lake Country Club in Eldora. Nydle, elected to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 1989, was also responsible for starting the Junior Girls’ 4-State Team event in 1968. After being approached by Mrs. E.W. Geiger Jr. of Kansas about creating an interstate junior team play, Nydle quickly jumped on board. The event first took place at Shawnee Mission Country Club in Kansas in 1968, with Missouri claiming the first title. It was played at Ottumwa Country Club, Nydle’s home course, the following year when Iowa not only hosted the event but took home the title.

The IWGA increased the frequency of events held each year and expanded its board of directors to include district chairs, responsible for securing host sites in their respective districts. They also compiled a comprehensive list of all women’s golf events in Iowa for the year to update their annual directories. While each championship had an assigned official, often the same woman would oversee multiple championships. This was evident with Ann Griffel and Jill Blackwood, two women who wore many hats during their time with the IWGA and IGA.

Griffel’s significant contributions to golf in Iowa span various roles as a player, volunteer, administrator and benefactor. Blackwood, who succeeded Griffel as president of the Iowa Women’s Golf Association, said, “I doubt that there is another individual who has had a greater impact upon women’s golf in Iowa than Ann.”

Griffel held the position of IWGA president for 23 years, beginning in 1962. During her tenure, she spearheaded the establishment of new competitive avenues for women, including the Iowa Junior Girls’ Amateur, the State Wife/Husband, the Women’s Forever 39 Match Play, and the Iowa Senior Women’s Amateur. Griffel chaired the State Wife/Husband from 1961 to 1965, an event that grew into one of the nation’s largest tournaments contested on a single course. There were over 500 participants at its peak.

Additionally, Griffel’s prowess on the course was evident as she clinched the Forever 39 titles in 1973, 1974, and 1979. She was also a five-time runner-up. And she dominated the Iowa Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, winning 11 times in a 12-year span from 1967 to 1979. Griffel’s commitment to nurturing talent and supporting education led to the inception of IWGA scholarships for Iowa high school seniors in 1966, later renamed the “Ann Griffel Scholarship” in her honor in 1985. She was elected to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.

Blackwood’s IWGA and IGA involvement was quite impressive as well. With a longstanding dedication to the IWGA, she assumed the role of district chair in 1985 and later joined the organization’s Board of Directors in 1991. Her commitment extended further as she served as president of the IWGA from 2002 to 2005. Additionally, she generously volunteered her time and expertise, directing the annual Iowa Wife/Husband Tournament for 13 years, the Iowa Women’s Amateur for eight years, and the Iowa Senior Women’s Amateur for four years. Notably, she played a pivotal role on the Ann Griffel Scholarship Selection Committee for a decade. In recognition of her remarkable contributions, the IGA honored her in 2014 with the prestigious George Turner Distinguished Service Award, acknowledging her lifetime of volunteerism and dedication to the sport. She was also inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2019.

Julie (Bush) Buerman’s passion for the game of golf extends beyond her own game. Her service to golf in Iowa started early in her career as she began coaching girls’ golf at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, just a few years after graduating from Luther College where she played collegiately. In addition to coaching high school golf for over 20 years, Buerman served on the IWGA board (2008-2011) and numerous IGA committees. She remains involved as both the Chair of the Women’s Rules and Competition Committee and the Ann Griffel Scholarship Committee. She also joined the 100th Iowa Women’s Amateur Committee this past year, helping elevate the championship to new heights. For the last six years, Buerman has led Team Iowa at the Junior Girls’ Four-State event. As a Four-State coach, she puts her high school coaching experience to use to encourage the next generation of Iowa golfers.

Outside of championships, the IWGA board members were in charge of conducting course ratings throughout the state. Joyce Prescott served on the IWGA board for 13 years. During that time she was responsible for conducting course ratings throughout the state. In 1995, the board transitioned by combining the Handicapping and Course Rating positions into one. Combining the two still stands today within IGA staff roles. Patty Iogha joined the board in 2007 and quickly got involved with course ratings. She remains heavily involved, assisting with dozens of course ratings annually and also contributing to the Handicapping and Course Rating Committee.

One of the most pivotal moments in IWGA and IGA history happened in 2013 when the two organizations merged. Carroll Dethrow, then president of the IWGA, worked closely with the key leaders of the IGA to ensure not only a smooth transition but also to preserve the playing opportunities for women in the state. After joining the board in 2007, Dethrow quickly rose through the ranks, becoming Vice President in 2009 and President in 2010.

Other notable board members and committee members include Ione Reid, Betty Thye and Trudie Higgs. Reid was a member for 26 total years, from 1962 through 1993. One of the most important roles during her stint was serving as the historian. She compiled all the history ranging from championship history to board members and district chairs. In a time when everything was printed, she pored over past files ensuring that future members would have a clear understanding of where the IWGA came from.

Betty Thye’s involvement with the Iowa Women’s Golf Association spanned 25 years, commencing in the 1960s. She was the IWGA’s vice president from 1984 to 1985 and president from 1985 to 1988. Additionally, she chaired the Course Rating Committee from 1970 to 1977, facilitating the establishment of women’s course ratings statewide in collaboration with the USGA. Furthermore, Thye played a pivotal role as the director of the Iowa Wife/Husband Championship from 1978 to 1985, notably during its staging at Okoboji. Betty was inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.

Currently, the IGA has four female board members with Leighann LaRocca serving as vice president and Molly Altorfer, Michelle Klein and Rose Kubesheski holding seats. Each also is involved with various committees. Altorfer assists with the Communications Committee; Klein serves on the Communications, Herman Sani Scholarship and Women’s Rules and Competitions committees; and Kubesheski serves on the Women’s Rules and Competitions, Ann Griffel Scholarship and Hall of Fame Nominating committees.

The IGA is fortunate to have passionate females on various committees, including three all-female committees with the Women’s Rules & Competitions, Ann Griffel Scholarship and the 100th Iowa Women’s Amateur.  They are as follows:

Julie Buerman, Chair
Kathy Fortune
Christi Imsland
Nicol Jones
Michelle Klein
Rose Kubesheski
Leighann LaRocca
Mikayla Olson

Leighann LaRocca, Chair
Rose Kubesheski
Julie Buerman
Laurie Graham
Jan Sewright
Christi Imsland
Leanne Smith
Jennifer Corkrean
Sheila Burton
Fiona Watson
Becky Schwiete

Julie Buerman
Beth Duenow
Paige Hoffman
Christi Imsland
Michelle Klein
Judy McCarty
Mikayla Olson

Judy McCarty came out of retirement in 2024, when she joined the 100th Iowa Women’s Amateur Committee. Having previously served on the board, McCarty held a variety of positions during her 14 years of involvement with the IWGA. She began as a board member before transitioning to the assistant secretary and later into secretary/treasurer. She also reached the pinnacle position of president from 2009 through 2010. One of her biggest responsibilities while on the board was drafting and publishing the IWGA Club Directories. The annual project was distributed across the state and included a list of each women’s event being played that year in Iowa. This included IWGA-sponsored and non-sponsored events. Though it was time-consuming, it was a critical piece to the ever-growing landscape of women’s golf in Iowa.

In reflecting on her time with the IWGA, McCarty echoed just how rewarding it was to be surrounded by passionate women. Many of the board members came from roles as district chairs, making the selection process easy because everyone was working toward a common goal. McCarty fondly remembers every board member being easily identifiable at IWGA events wearing their matching red blazers.

Other notables to have served on the IWGA board include Trudie Higgs (1989-2009) and Gleni Howard (1982-1999). Trudie Higgs became the first and only mother to have a daughter serve on the board during her stint. Kathie Sankey joined her mother from 2005-2007 when she was brought on as the treasurer.

These women, spanning past and present board members and committee affiliates, have worked to continue the growth and excellence of women’s golf within the state. Their commitment and expertise stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of the game.

For a complete list of IWGA board members from 1955-2007 click here.

Next Week on Women’s Wednesday…

Highlighting five past champions who etched their names on the Fladoos trophy.

Scroll to top