Featuring 100 Women – Teenage Triumph

Teenage Triumph: Juniors Capture State’s Crown Jewel

The Iowa Women’s Amateur is one of the toughest tests a player can face within the state borders. With a field made up of the top juniors, mid-amateurs, and seasoned veterans, it often requires many years and close calls for players to finally get their hands on the Fladoos Trophy. For a select few, the wait didn’t last long. They staked their claim in Iowa Women’s Amateur history before receiving their high school diploma.

The year was 1935 and the Iowa Women’s Amateur Championship was a mere 14 years old. The championship was being held at Davenport Country Club and all of the stars were teeing it up. Amongst the favorites and household names was a budding Edith Estabrooks.

The same age as the championship, Estabrooks’ game was well established and many quickly tabbed her as ‘a prodigy playing a high level of golf that defied her age’ with the physical and ‘mental makeup required of a champion’. By the end of the week, she rightfully earned her championship title taking down Jennet Jones, 5&4, in the match-play format. Aside from the dominant victory was the fact that Estabrooks began the 36-hole match five down through five. After leveling the match through 23 holes, the teen won five of the next nine holes. To cap it off, she drained a fifty-foot eagle putt on the 32nd hole to slam the door on Jones.

In her third attempt, Edith was able to not only write her name on the trophy, but into the record books by becoming the youngest champion in tournament history. She successfully defended her title in 1936 and 1937. After surrendering the trophy in 1938, she promptly claimed it again in 1939. Estabrooks did more than win the Iowa Women’s Amateur in her teenage years as she also captured the Western Girls’ Junior in 1936. She nearly claimed her second title in 1938 before falling to future LPGA and USGA champion Patty Berg in the championship match.

Five years after Estabrooks’ incredible victory, another young teenager tried her hand at capturing the same title. Phyllis Otto had just finished up her sophomore year of high school and was 10 days away from turning 16 when she teed it up at the 1940 Iowa Women’s Amateur. She captured the title at Wakonda Club in Des Moines with a decisive 6&5 margin over Kathleen Carey. Her closest match of the week was a 3&2 victory over future six-time Iowa Women’s Amateur Champion Ann Casey Johnstone.

Otto, having first participated in the event when she was 12, would go on to capture two more Iowa Women’s Amateur titles in 1942 and 1952, both coming at Des Moines Golf & Country Club. Between 1945 and 1946, she added titles at the Women’s Western Amateur and National Collegiate Women’s Championship along with a Curtis Cup invite to her resumé. Her 1945 Women’s Western Amateur title was over the legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Outside of women’s golf, Phyllis also left her mark in boys’ golf. She and three other boys teamed up to help Atlantic High School capture the state title in 1941. After turning in the lowest score, a protest broke out when it was discovered the team did not have a faculty member on site. Otto’s mother had driven the teens to the event but when the track and field coach failed to show up as the faculty representative, the team was disqualified.

Otto would later marry Jack Germain, the brother of her college roommate and teammate Dorothy, and hang her clubs up until 1948 when she continued her impressive display of golfing prowess. Seven years later, in 1952, she captured her third and final Iowa Women’s Amateur title before turning professional and pursuing a career in golf instruction.

Otto would remain the most recent high schooler to capture the Iowa Women’s Amateur until 1956. Not only would that year’s championship be won by a teenager, but the combined age for the two finalists didn’t even reach 30. In a match that felt more like the Iowa Junior Girls’ Amateur than the Women’s Amateur, 16-year-old Andy Cohn prevailed by a mark of 6&5 over 13-year-old Sharon Fladoos. Clinton Country Club was flooded with patrons as an estimated crowd of 1,000 followed along for each of the 31 holes played that July day. Even more groundbreaking was the fact that all four semifinalists that year were teenagers. Cohn and Fladoos were joined by Judy Kimball, 18, and Linda Cahill, 16. Kimball, the oldest of the four, was just a month removed from turning 18.

With the unprecedented teenage movement in the semifinals, the I.W.G.A. held a vote to see if juniors should be allowed to play in both the Iowa Junior Girls’ and the Iowa Women’s Amateur. Fortunately, the vote never passed. Had it passed, Sharon Fladoos wouldn’t have become the first girl to capture both the Junior and Women’s Amateur title in the same year, a feat she accomplished in 1960.

The 1956 championship was groundbreaking for more reasons than just its young finalists. It also marked the final time the champion was determined through a match-play format. The championship changed to stroke play medalist competition in 1957 and has remained so through today. Even with the format change, Estabooks’ championship record at age 14 still holds to this day. The closest anyone has ever come to besting Estabrooks was a fifteen-year-old Britta Snyder.

The Ames native made headlines in the summer of 2016 when she committed to Baylor University before ever stepping foot in a high school classroom. A highly-sought recruit, Snyder focused many of her competitive efforts on national-level events and an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) schedule.

Not often teeing it up in Iowa, the youngster came into the 93rd Iowa Women’s Amateur with one goal: to win. She didn’t just win, she blitzed the field by a staggering 13 shots posting an even-par 216. Not bad, kid.

Snyder won every event she played in Iowa from 2017 through 2019. Beginning with her freshman year in the spring of 2017, Britta earned medalist honors at each of her high school tournaments. The one event she didn’t win? The individual high school state championship. It wasn’t because someone beat her. It was because she qualified for a USGA Championship, which was scheduled over the same dates.

Returning in 2018, the Gilbert sophomore won each time she teed it up, including her first individual state title. Her junior year, 2019, was more of the same as she continued to remain undefeated en route to her second straight individual state crown. She closed out her title defense with an eagle on the last hole to post a course-record 65. She didn’t know it then, but it would be her final time wearing the Gilbert uniform.

A senior in 2020, Snyder had to sit back as the COVID-19 epidemic wiped away any chance at her threepeat. “If I have a chance to leave high school golf that’s how I wanted to. I mean 65, winning a state title by 15 with an eagle putt. There’s no better way to end it than that,” Snyder would later say.

Synder didn’t know it then, but she wouldn’t be the last high schooler to claim a victory at the Iowa Women’s Amateur. Two years later in 2019, Paige Hoffman of West Des Moines teed it up at her first Iowa Women’s Amateur. The 17-year-old was fresh off claiming the 4A High School Individual State title and was well-known in the IGA circuit. But before she could win her maiden title, her passion for the IGA began with an invitation.

The Iowa Golf Association helped Hoffman kick-start her junior golf career in an important way in 2017 with an invitation to the Junior Girls’ Four-State Tournament. This event was a springboard for Paige’s love of golf and pushed her to pursue golf on a more competitive level. Throughout her junior career, Paige played in four Four-States, won three Iowa Junior Girls’ Player of the Year titles, won two IGA Women’s Four-Ball tournaments with teammate Kylie Carey, and won the previously mentioned Class 4A Iowa High School State Championship.

The pinnacle of Hoffman’s junior career was winning the Iowa Women’s Amateur at Otter Creek Golf Course in 2019. It is a title even she admits she didn’t think she would claim so early in her career. Paige ended her successful junior career by earning a Herman Sani Scholarship in 2021 for her high character and achievement in the classroom.

Hoffman’s passion for golf did not end at the junior level as she now plays collegiate golf at Northwest Missouri State University. She played her way to the NCAA Division II National Championship as a sophomore in 2023, which led to her inaugural IGA Women’s Player of the Year title.

Paige does not just have a passion for playing golf, but also a passion for golf administration. Paige served as the Handicapping and Course Rating Intern in 2023 and is excited to intern with the IGA again in 2024. “The Iowa golf community is a special group and I feel fortunate to be a small part of it as a player and an intern,” Hoffman said.

Though five champions are highlighted, they aren’t the only high schoolers to lift the Fladoos trophy. Jennie Arseneault did so in 2004 at Elmwood Country Club kicking off her streak of three in a row. Future releases will share Arseneault’s incredible run at the state’s top event. Sharon Fladoos captured her first of three Iowa Women’s Amateur titles in 1960 at age 17, just four years after her runner-up finish to Cohn. For a more in-depth look at Sharon’s career, click here.

Excerpts from Golden Harvest and We Are Iowa (WOI-TV) were used in this feature.

Next Week on Women’s Wednesday…

Celebrating the life of Corkey Nydle, one of Iowa’s most decorated amateurs.

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