Fun History of PWGA, by Rebecca Reese

Tucked away in the Pacific Women’s Golf Association office, is a treasure-trove of women’s golf history. I spent an afternoon leafing through various clubs history, and scrapbooks of years past. As I turned page after page of women creating the tradition of the PWGA, I marveled at many things: Their hairdos, the clothes they played in, the smiles and camaraderie, the foresight to create Play Days and tournaments and interact with other clubs throughout Northern California. What stands out the most: The talent of these golfers, the low handicaps, the long drives without the benefit of present-day technology.  Some golf courses had the ladies playing 6000 yards.  It was not until 2010 when ladies clubs started moving forward to a yardage of 5300 to 5500 yards.  

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The earliest tangible evidence of our organization dates back to the1926, although the records are scarce. In 1947 we officially became “Pacific Women’s Golf Association of Northern California,” handicaps were instituted and Play  Days were attended in the Monterey, Bay Area, East Bay, and out into the North, Central and Central Valley. We now have 7 Areas and a 9 Hole Area with 6 Major tournaments throughout Northern California.  Did you know that a woman invented the first handicap system back in 1917, Lissette Miller.  The Women’s Tournament Committee was founded in 1934 under the USGA.  Way to go girls.  

As I read past Board of Director minutes, I was reminded how different things were in the decades leading up to the Women’s Liberation movement in the 1960s. Each official position was listed by their husband’s name with no mention of the actual person’s name. In 1947 the President of PWGA was Mrs. Helen Lengfeld.  Not married? How many years passed before women were offered up a third choice, “Ms.”?  Helen Lengfeld won the San Francisco Championship in 1926, started the United Veterans Service Association Golf in 1946, and was instrumental in starting women’s amateur events such as the US Amateur, Mid-Amateur, and Senior Amateur.  Producing some great golfers and Hall of Famers from Northern California:  Julie Inkster, Patty Sheehan, Paula Creamer, and Michelle Wie. It is no wonder our Founders Tournament is named after her, and has never changed.  Did you know that Mary Queen of Scots played golf.  She was actually the first recorded woman to have played golf.  

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What resonates throughout the years of meticulously recorded history is the pride and careful consideration in creating an organization for women golfers that emphasized charity work, opportunities for young female golfers, awarding fierce competitors with tournaments to celebrate their accomplishments, as well as offering events to include all ages and abilities. Rules Committees, Course Raters, Handicapping systems and member accountability were all priorities.

It was not permissible in 1950 to wear shorts, slacks or pedal pushers in association events. By 1957 it was deemed that “Bermuda shorts and blouses” were acceptable attire. We can now laugh at the names of some of the early events. In 1947 the “Grandmother and Seniors Tournament” was added.  In the first event the eldest participant was 74, the youngest grandmother was 34, (way to young), and one grandmother had 9 grand kids.  It was said, “not a wheelchair in sight”.  This was a 2 best ball foursome, where the winning 2 day total was 273. As the years passed, the tournaments adapted to the growing competitive field of women golfers.  Tournaments were added such as the two day Eclectic in 1970, and a “Best Ball Foursome”.  What ever happened to these tournaments?  The one constant is the Helen Lengfeld.  Did you know that in the 70’s the PWGA had seven major tournaments? The PWGA Board is an organization constantly in motion, adapting to technology, (Golf Genius, Member Planet), as it unfolds.  These ongoing changes adapt to the membership needs.

As I leafed through the names of past Presidents I found that In 1985, the names were no longer listed with the husband’s name but, buy our ladies first names.  

We have come a long way, Baby!