Featuring 100 Women: Three’s Company

Celebrating Iowa’s Three-Time Iowa Women’s Amateur Champions

Winning the Iowa Women’s Amateur can often be the pinnacle event of a player’s career. The highly competitive field combined with the demands of the course often brings the cream of the Iowa crop into contention. Most would feel fortunate just to be in contention during the championship. For a select few, being in contention was the standard, a regular occurrence, and potentially, an expectation. It is rarified air being crowned the champion of this event twice, but in its history, four players have reached another level: three victories.

Des Moines’ Mary Louise Cordingly was the first of four players to reach the magical number of three Iowa Women’s Amateur titles. She did so rather quickly, reeling off three victories in four years from 1947 through 1950. Her first title, in 1947, came at Cedar Rapids Country Club. Cordingly got off to a quick start in the championship match and never looked back. After the first 18 holes, she was already four up on Nell Staats who was, by all accounts, the veteran in the match. But that didn’t deter the Des Moines native as she then won or tied each of the following 11 holes, closing out a decisive 9 & 7 victory.

Returning to the championship in 1948, Cordingly was the player to beat. Sunnyside Country Club has often felt like home for defending champions and it was no different for Cordingly. In the all Des Moines final, she took down Lois Penn by a margin of 2 & 1. Along the way to clinching the title, she faced some of the state’s top golfers in Corky Nydle and a rematch with Nell Staats. In both rounds of the title match, Cordingly saved her best for the back nine as she closed out in one-under-par 41 and two-under 40. After miscalculating her score on the 32nd, she was forced to concede it to Penn, helping her competitor close the gap. It gave Penn the momentum as she was also able to win the 33rd and 34th holes, slashing the deficit to one. Never one to back away, Cordingly drove the 35th hole and two-putted for birdie, closing out her successful title defense.

After bowing out early in the 1949 championship, Cordingly returned in 1950 with her sights once again set on victory. Similar to her first title, she dominated the final match, leaving little doubt to those who watched, that she was the top amateur in the state. Bebe Fisher had the tall task of trying to take down the two-time champion but proved to be no match as Cordingly rode an early five-up lead into an 8 & 7 victory at Clinton Country Club. Cordlingly led from start to finish, leaving the 19-year-old Fisher unable to gain any form of momentum. Following her third victory at the Iowa Women’s Amateur, the trophy was retired as was customary following a participant’s third victory in the event.

It was evident that Cordingly was the player to beat at the 1951 Iowa Women’s Amateur Championship and would go on to claim even more titles. However, she never got the chance. She tragically passed away during the early morning hours of March 31st, 1951. After leaving Wakonda Club, her home course, she drowned when the vehicle she was riding in was swept off Fleur Drive due to high floodwaters. The 1951 playing of the championship unveiled a new trophy, appropriately named after Cordingly.

It would take more than 25 years before another champion would claim three Iowa Women’s Amateur titles, but like Cordingly, it would only take four years to achieve. Hailing from Sibley, Barb Thomas took the state by storm in 1978 and 1979 as she captured both the Iowa High School Individual Championship and the Iowa Girls’ Junior title in both years.

Following her high school graduation in 1979, she would go on to claim her first Iowa Women’s Amateur title at Ottumwa Country Club. Standing on the 18th hole, the then 17-year-old Thomas was faced with a five-foot putt to claim victory. Rising to the occasion, the teen calmly rolled it in to post a three-over-par 74, and a 54-hole total of 298, edging out Dorea Mitchell by one.

She would go on to star at Iowa State University the following season, earning First Team All-American honors. Following her freshman season, she transferred to NCAA powerhouse University of Tulsa, where she would later finish third individually in the NCAA Championship while helping Canes to the team title.

Thomas would once again finish 1-2 in 1980, but this time it was Mitchell claiming the win. Thomas then came back better than ever in 1981. Playing at Burlington Golf Club, she left little doubt that she was the player to beat, posting rounds of 70, 72, 81 to win by seven strokes. Her first round 70 broke the previous Burlington Golf Club course record. Such as with Cordingly, Thomas successfully defended her Iowa Women’s Amateur title at Sunnyside the next year. After finishing the first round in a tie for first, Thomas blitzed the field over the next two rounds with back-to-back 71s to lift the trophy, this time by 14 strokes.

Following her college career and final Iowa Women’s Amateur title, Thomas set her sights on playing professionally. She played on the LPGA tour for 18 years where she captured the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open in 1995. That year also marked one of her top finishes on the money list as she would go on to finish 31st in the standings. She was inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Jenny Heinz of Waterloo was no stranger to the Iowa Women’s Amateur when she teed it up at Dodge Riverside Golf Course in 2003. The University of Northern Iowa Panther already had an Iowa High School State Individual title and Iowa Girls’ Junior Amateur to her name, but was still looking to capture the state’s largest event.

Entering the 2003 championship, Heinz had finished solo second and in a tie for second in the two previous Iowa Women’s Amateurs. It was plenty of motivation for her as she was able to hold off a late charge from Iowa State’s Leanne Owens and Lisa Meshke, capturing her maiden title. A birdie on the final hole helped her post three-under 33 on the back nine, securing the championship by two shots.

Heinz would continue her impressive play at the Iowa Women’s Amateur through the 2000’s but would have to wait six more years to claim her second win. During the drought of championship titles, she never finished outside the top 10 on the leaderboard. In 2009, she finally broke through again, clinching the Iowa Women’s Amateur title at Hyperion Field Club in Johnston. Even though she was out of college, the championship felt much like the 2003 event as Leanne Smith, previously Owens, finished runner-up. Heinz would once again wait six years before another title, this time capturing the crown in 2015 at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. She was the only player under par after 54 holes, shooting 6-under-par 207 to claim the title by six over University of Iowa golfer Jessie Sindlinger.

While Jenny Heinz had to wait six years between victories, another Jennie was able to complete the trifecta in as many years. Beginning in 2004, Jennie Arseneault captured her first Iowa Women’s Amateur title. It wasn’t surprising to those who knew the teen. Originally from Grinnell, Arseneault opted to attend the prestigious International Junior Golf Academy, David Leadbetter Golf Academy, and The Pendleton School during her high school years.

Being immersed in golf year-round paid dividends as she was able to successfully defend her Iowa Women’s Amateur title in 2005, this time coming at Harvester Golf Club. In each of her first two titles, she closed in quite impressive fashion. First at Elmwood posting 66-67 then again at the Harvester posting 65-69 over the final 36 holes.

Her third and final title, coming in 2006 at Des Moines Golf & Country Club, began with quite the bang as she posted a course record 68. Losing momentum in the second round with a 73, she regrouped and saved her best for last. During the final nine holes of the event, she used a three-hole stretch recording a birdie and eagle to distance herself from the field and claim the title by four over Jill Marcum.

2006 was more than just the year she claimed her third straight title; it was one of the best years of her career. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Women’s Amateur that summer. Although she missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open, the experience would come in handy just a few weeks later when she teed it up at the Amateur. She put together quite the week, advancing out of stroke play and all the way to the quarterfinals before falling in 19 holes to Lindy Duncan.

Though she never teed it up again in the Iowa Women’s Amateur, mostly in part because of various injuries, Arseneault continued having success at the national level. Her most prolific victory came in 2008 when she captured the Women’s Western Amateur in Newnan, Georgia.

Next week on Women’s Wednesday…

Decisions aren’t made overnight. Take a closer look at those who have impacted the policies and procedures both for the Iowa Women’s Golf Association and the Iowa Golf Association.



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