Featuring 100 Women: Successful Title Defense

Five Who Went Back-To-Back

Successfully defending an Iowa Women’s Amateur Championship title is exceptionally challenging due to the high level of competition from skilled golfers across the state. Each year, new and returning participants bring their best game, raising the bar higher and higher. Weather conditions vary greatly, adding an unpredictable element that tests even the most seasoned players. Mental and physical stamina are crucial, as the pressure to maintain top performance can be intense. Achieving back-to-back victories is a testament to a golfer’s consistency, resilience, and exceptional talent, making it an impressive and rare feat.

Elisabeth Waterman

When the Iowa Women’s Amateur began in 1922, many wondered who would be the first champion to successfully defend her title. Thankfully, they wouldn’t have to wait long as Elisabeth Waterman accomplished the difficult feat in just the fourth edition of the championship.

During the 1924 Iowa Women’s Amateur, Cedar Rapids Country Club was host to the top female golfers the state of Iowa has to offer. Waterman, of Davenport, collected the first win of the week after capturing medalist honors during the first round with an 88. At the time, papers reported that her 88 was “said to be the best score ever made by a woman on the difficult course.” It was only the beginning for Waterman that week as she skillfully worked her way through the match play bracket, securing a spot in the finals against Mrs. F.C. Buyers. The two battled throughout the entire match, as neither held a lead greater than one up.

Buyers often got the better of Waterman, but she refused to quit. She continued to find ways to tie the match, often the hole following a win from Buyers. The pair remained level through 18 holes and trudged on to the 19th with the championship on the line. Waterman captured the 19th hole and her first of two straight Iowa Women’s Amateur titles.

Returning to the championship in 1925, all eyes were on Waterman as everyone flocked to Sunnyside Country Club. During the second round of match play, Waterman was nearly defeated by Francis Drake before a late rally kept her title defense alive. Many said that after her rally and defeat of Drake, it was “practically conceded that she would retain the championship.” They were right. Her final match was against A.C. Clapp but a hot start from the defending champ left little doubt as to who would raise the trophy. Holding a three-up lead at the turn, it seemed the match would end quickly in favor of Waterman. Clapp, however, had different plans. She rallied to win the 10th, 11th, and 13th, but a loss on 12th and 15th dashed her hopes. Waterman recomposed herself during the back nine, and captured the 15th and final hole to secure her second Iowa Women’s Amateur titles. She didn’t know it yet, but she would become the first of seven champions to successfully defend their titles at Sunnyside Country Club. 

Elizabeth Curtis

Entering the 1927 Iowa Women’s Amateur, Elizabeth Curtis had never played in a golf championship. Growing up at Clinton Country Club, Curtis has played her fair share of friendly matches during her five years of learning the game. Teeing it up at Wakonda Club, many didn’t know Curtis’ name at the start of the week. By the end of it, everyone knew who she was.

Her championship match against Mrs. Byers was one of the most dominant performances in Iowa Women’s Amateur history. With a three-up lead through five, Curtis refused to let up, watching her lead grow with wins on the sixth through the ninth, taking a seven-up lead at the turn. The 18-hole championship match was decided on the 11th green, as the pair tied the hole and Curtis claimed an 8 & 7 victory making the first of two titles.

Teeing it up at Arsenal Golf Club in 1928, Curtis once again performed well in the championship match. Battling against Frances Drake, Curtis got off to a dream start with a three-under-par front nine. Her stellar play saw her amass a four-up lead through nine holes where it would remain until closing out the match on the 15th green. Credited with long drives and pinpoint accuracy with her irons, Curtis’ play further etched her into Iowa Golf History as the second successful title defense in the championship.

Betsy Bro

Entering the final round of the 1985 Iowa Women’s Amateur, Betsy Bro found herself one stroke behind the leaders and needing to make a move up the leaderboard. Finding herself in the penultimate pairing, Bro meticulously plotted her way around the front nine of Green Valley Golf Club. Turning in one over par, she found herself tied for the lead with Chris Cervetti-Kiel heading to the back. With a closing nine of even par 36, Bro eagerly waited in the clubhouse wondering if it would be enough. Even when others began to congratulate her, she quickly responded “as long as Chris is still out there it isn’t over. She’s tough”. Needing a miracle on the 18th, Cervetti-Kiel made a bogey allowing Bro to capture her second Iowa Women’s Amateur title in three years. The victory would kickstart an impressive three-year run for Bro in which she lifted the Fladoos trophy annually.

The story of the 1986 Iowa Women’s Amateur was Mother Nature. Heavy rain storms on the final day forced the championship to be condensed from 54-holes down to 36-holes. Despite the weather challenges, Bro’s exceptional play during the first two rounds would be enough as she claimed a one-stroke victory over Tera Fleischman and Cervettit-Kiel. After trailing by two following an opening round 77, Bro bounced back with a 75. Consistent rain over the second and third day of the championship may have derailed the competition, but Bro remained steady for her first successful title defense.

Bro achieved her third consecutive Iowa Women’s Amateur title in 1987 at Mason City Country Club. She demonstrated the same skill and consistency that she had in years prior, finishing with a five-shot win over the runner-up, Barb Thomas. Bro’s final round score of 73, which was one of the best of the tournament, helped secure her fourth overall victory. Her two previous victories had been small margins, but 1987 marked the first time she would have to go into a playoff to claim the title.

Holding a three-shot lead heading into the final round, Bro remained ahead of the field through the 12th. By the time she put the flag in on the 15th, she was joined at the top by Ann Vandermillen. The pair remained tied heading to the 18th hole, but Bro would have a five-foot birdie putt to capture the win. She would go on to miss and force extra holes against Vandermillen. The pair exchanged pars on the first two playoff holes, but Bro wasn’t ready to give up. Staring down a 30-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole, Bro drained it, capturing her third consecutive and fourth overall title. “It was a great way to win it. I love competition like this. We were really going back and forth,” Bro later said. Five years later, Bro would once again return to the winner’s circle, capturing her fifth Iowa Women’s Amateur title at Pleasant Valley Golf Course.

Ann Vandermillen

Annie (Vandermillen) Albrecht was back for revenge in 1988 at Spencer Golf and Country Club. A year prior, Annie had almost reached the pinnacle of women’s golf in Iowa: an Iowa Women’s Amateur title, but fell just short in a sudden death playoff against Betsy Bro. The 1987 win was Bro’s third Iowa Women’s Amateur victory in a row and a tough pill to swallow for Vandermillen. However, she used the experience to play with fire in the 1988 contest. She left few questions unanswered as to who would win the title, winning by six strokes and having enough of a cushion to bogey three of the last four holes en route to the title. The taste of winning was much sweeter than what she had experienced a year before and too sweet to stop.

Vandermillen won the Iowa Women’s Amateur again in 1989 at Wakonda Club in Des Moines. Wakonda Club proved to be a difficult test for the field, but the Dubuque native battled it out for three days and came out on top by two strokes. Vandermillen would not be back to defend her title once again in 1990 as her golf game was taking on a new challenge. Coming off a successful college career at Wichita State University in 1989, highlighted by a 1987 Gateway Conference title and four selections to the all-conference team, she went on to play professionally on the Future’s Golf Tour (now named the Epson Tour). Vandermillen has since been named to the Missouri Valley women’s golf all-time team.

Megan Furnish

Cedar Rapids native Megan Furnish was in unchartered territory at the 2013 Iowa Women’s Amateur. The Missouri State standout was tied for the lead heading into the final round and was joined by two-time past champion Jenny Heinz. She’d earned her way into the final pairing by firing the low round of the championship with a 1-over-par 73. Even more remarkable about her second round was the fact that she had a triple bogey on the seventh hole. Her final round four-over 76 was enough to fend off not only Heinz but Alex Zenor, who fired the low round of the day with two-over 74. Her maiden victory was earned by two strokes, but her title defense wouldn’t be as easy, having to survive a two-hole playoff.

Opening the championship with back-to-back rounds of 74, Furnish found herself leading by one over Heinz and Christy Nelson. Paired with Heinz and Nelson, Furnish had a front row seat to see where she stood. As Heinz faltered, Nelson pressed on, matching Funish on nearly every hole. By the time the pair reached the 18th, they were deadlocked. Beginning the playoff on the first, the pair exchanged pars. After Nelson failed to make par on the second playoff hole, Furnish calmly rolled in her five-foot par save. She had become just the 15th player of all time to successfully defend her title at the Iowa Women’s Amateur.

Next Week on Women’s Wednesday…

Capturing both the Iowa Girls’ Junior Amateur and the Iowa Women’s Amateur is a rare and remarkable achievement. Look at four duplicate winners who have etched their names on both the Betty Thye and Fladoos Family trophies.

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