Featuring 100 Women – Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Corkey Nydle passes away

Celebrating the Life of Corkey Nydle

Corkey Nydle was 24 years old when she won her first Iowa Women’s Amateur golf title in 1953 at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids.
She beat the legendary Ann Casey Johnstone, her college advisor at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., in the title match.

“She was a mature girl even when she came to Stephens College,” Johnstone once reflected. “I’ve had hundreds of girls who were wishy-washy and didn’t know what day it was. She did. She set good goals, and she’ll achieve them.”

Nydle, who passed away Saturday (March 16) at 94 years of age, lived up to Johnstone’s sage words. Corkey leaves behind a legacy that will live forever in the history of women’s golf in Iowa. Her career was so impressive that she was a member of the inaugural Iowa Golf Hall of Fame class in 1989.

Nydle’s 1953 Iowa Women’s Amateur title came at Johnstone’s expense. Ann would go on to win an unprecedented sixth title in 1959. Corkey caught her when she won her sixth title in 1972. That 1953 victory was at the top of the list.

“I think that’s probably the greatest (victory) because I beat the person who I had looked up to as far as golf was concerned,” Nydle reflected in 1994.

Corkey won 23 Iowa Women’s Golf Association-sponsored titles during her career. In addition to six Iowa Women’s Amateur crowns, she won 11 Iowa Senior Amateur titles. That included eight straight from 1983 to 1991. She won five Forever 39 titles and also helped Ellis Park (Cedar Rapids) win five state team titles.

Corkey was instrumental in the development of women’s golf in Iowa for the better part of 50 years. She had a special passion for promoting junior golf in the state. Nydle served on the IWGA’s board of directors for more than 30 years and also served a term on the USGA Junior Girls’ committee.
Corkey played in her first Iowa Women’s Amateur in 1946 at Hyperion. She would tee it up in the championship 46 times, including a string of 25 appearances in a row. That streak ended in 1983 back at Elmcrest, where Corkey had defeated her mentor 30 years earlier. Nydle was overcome by the heat on the final nine in 1983 and couldn’t finish.

Nydle’s brilliant career was fueled by an unsinkable spirit and a burning desire to compete. Corkey would take along a notebook and jot down notes about the course as she played it. She’d add to that notebook every time she returned to the course. Her notes included diagrams of every hole.

Corky was also blessed with a wealth of self-deprecating humor.

“People don’t know what to expect from me because I don’t know what to expect,” she once said.

She compared her longevity to an old penny.

“We never go away,” she said.

She was animated on the golf course, but never let a bad shot get the best of her.

“I enjoy the game,” she said. “When you hit a bad shot you can’t do anything about it. Why get mad?”

She was born Corinne Major in Ottumwa. She was named for her mother. She loved to swim as a kid, which played a role in her nickname.

“I guess I swam a lot and people said I floated like a cork,” she explained.

She had an impeccable short game, which she rode to that 1953 state title over Johnstone. They were tied halfway through the 36-hole final, but Corkey won the first two holes of the second round and never trailed again. She got up-and-down for par on five of the first six holes of that second round and eventually won the match, 4 and 3. It was the only loss Johnstone, elected to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 1990, had in her final 20 Iowa Women’s Amateur matches.

Corkey went a decade before collecting her second Iowa Women’s Amateur title, in 1963 at Dodge Park in Council Bluffs. The championship had converted from match to medal play by then. She won by 14 shots.

She also won in 1965 at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines and 1968 at Spencer Golf and Country Club.

Her career nearly came to a premature end in 1969, when doctors told Nydle she was going to lose a hand because of radiation poisoning.

“They said within five years my hand would be completely clawed and it would have to be removed,” she said. “I said, “You’re a bunch of crackpots.’ ”

Corky started to squeeze a rubber ball to improve strength in her arm. She also built up the grips on her clubs to make it easier on her damaged hand. And she kept winning.

She added Iowa Women’s Amateur titles in 1970 at Dubuque Golf and Country Club and 1972 at Crow Valley Golf Club in Bettendorf. She matched Johnstone’s six titles by winning over three decades.

After moving to Florida in 2003, Nydle won 12 consecutive medals in the Florida Senior Games.

“I had no lessons and I’ve got a lot of bad habits,” Nydle said in 1983. “I learned my own game. I’m not a picturebook golfer – I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do. My philosophy of the game is that it’s not how many good shots you hit, but how many bad/good shots (bad shots that turn out good) that you hit.”

Her love for golf never left her.

“See that ground there,” she said during a 1997 interview, pointing to the turf. “When I’m under it, that’s when I’ll quit playing.”


Next Week on Women’s Wednesday…

Three’s Company: Iowa Women’s Amateur champions that captured the title three or more times in their career.

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