History of the Colorado Women’s Golf Association
March 14, 1916, a group of eight women came together to form the Colorado Women’s Golf Association. Those present were Mrs. Olyn Hemming and Mrs. Arthur Perkins (Colorado Springs GC); Mrs. Frank Bishop and Mrs. Charles Redmond (Lakewood CC); Miss Eleanor Bulkley and Miss Helen Wells (Denver CC); Miss Frances Moffat (Interlachen GC*) and Mrs. Edwin Morrison (City Park GC). During a meeting this group, representing five clubs, elected a president, adopted the constitution and bylaws, and wrote the association’s objectives and purpose.
The stated purpose of the CWGA, unchanged to this day was: “To promote and maintain the best interests of the game of golf; to hold golf tournaments; and to promote good fellowship among member clubs”. Also at this meeting, the site for the first CWGA annual championship was selected. The Colorado Women’s Golf Association was launched.
Upon request of the CWGA’s first president, Mrs. Hemming, women’s par was established for the association in April 1916. The following criteria was suggested by the Women’s Western Golf Association: any hole under 150 yards, par 3; 150 to 285 yards, par 4; 285 to 420 yards, par 5; 420 to 550 yards, par 6; over 550 yards, par 7.
In September 1916, the first CWGA championship was played at Colorado Springs Golf Club. Dressed in mid-calf skirts, belted hip-length sweaters or jackets, and a variety of millinery creations, 28 women journeyed to Colorado Springs to compete in this event. Mrs. R.H. Douglass of Lakewood was Medalist with a 97, while Mrs. M.A. McLaughlin, also of Lakewood, holds the distinct honor of being the first State Match Play Champion. At this tournament, it was thought that husbands or sweethearts would enjoy a little outing as well as a chance to gallery the matches. This practice was soon discontinued…the large gallery made the players too nervous and bothered.
These early years were during World War I and the war effort was a worthy cause for association revenues. The tournament entry fee for the Second Annual CWGA Championship was $2 per player. The total revenue from the tournament was $84 and the entire sum was handed over to the Mountain Division of the National Red Cross. During World War II, the CWGA gave Defense Bonds and Stamps as trophies in the State Tournament. A transportation committee was formed at each club for its members participating in the tournament in order to conserve tires and gasoline.
While the CWGA has had its share of standout tournament performers, it has always been equally concerned about making its championships fun and fair for everyone. From 1921-1923, the CWGA adopted a unique method of payment in the annual Championship. The tournament entry fee was “one cent a stroke for the qualifying round, but not to exceed one dollar and a half” (Oh! The Good Old Days!). The Women’s Western Golf Association lowered par when the larger and lighter golf ball became official in 1931, and the CWGA complied. Thus, par 7’s no longer existed. The lowest 16 qualifiers were, and still are, the Championship Flight in the Match Play Tournament. At a 1921 meeting, it was “duly moved” to set a Solace Flight for the defeated eight and “to have as many flights of eight as would be necessary so that all who entered would qualify.” Another decision provided that everyone play every day during the tournament, so a Special Consolation Flight of 18 holes (with handicap) was declared.
Through 1959, the CWGA conducted only one annual State Championship and most of the business meetings revolved around planning this event. At the 1945 CWGA Annual Meeting, there was a great deal of discussion regarding the abolition of the Stymie Rule. At that time, Match Play was conducted by playing stymies. This meant that if a ball blocked the line of a putt and was more than six inches from an opponent’s ball or the hole, the ball could not be marked and the player would have to “negotiate” the stymie. Negotiating the stymie meant either chipping over the opponent’s ball or curving around it. The shot required a great deal of skill and one’s ability to negotiate a stymie often was the difference in a match. The association voted to abolish this inconvenient rule; the USGA followed suit five years later.
From the beginning, tournament planning and administration encompassed many hours of hard work by countless volunteers and board members. In 1959, the first State Match Play Championship was conducted. The first State Best Ball Championship was held in 1967 and was so popular that another was added to the tournament schedule in 1975. Both Best Ball tournaments are still enthusiastically supported today. In 1980, the CWGA adopted the Denver Women’s Invitational Golf Tournament and renamed it the CWGA Stroke Play Championship. In 1983, the first Senior Stroke Play Championship was contested. This year, the CWGA will conduct many State Championships, and in so doing, will provide competitive opportunities for all age groups and abilities.
Through the years the association has developed and evolved into a full-service golf association. This can be attributed to the tireless work, dedication and long-range planning of numerous individuals. The CWGA continues to be a volunteer-based organization governed by a 14-member Board of Directors which is elected by the member clubs.
The Course Rating and Handicap Committee was formed in 1956. This committee began with the lowest handicapper from each member club. In 1980, the Rules Committee was established. The duties of this six-member committee included officiating at all CWGA tournaments and conducting rules seminars. To further assist with administering successful championships, the Tournament Committee was established in 1994. Today, more than 80 volunteers statewide serve as board and committee members and are committed to the growth of golf in Colorado.
In the late 1980’s, the association had grown enough to require a full-time employee to facilitate the volume of business in the office. Today, four full-time staff members and one part-time staff member assist the board and standing committees, and a summer intern is annually funded by the USGA. The office staff reports directly to the Board of Directors. The staff handles all of the day-to-day affairs of the association, keeping busy year-round delivering services to the membership. The staff also represents the CWGA at various local and national conferences and seminars.
The CWGA is an association of member clubs and individuals. In addition to the five founding clubs, on record as early joiners to the CWGA were The Broadmoor GC, Ft. Collins CC, Cherry Hills CC, Boulder CC, Wellshire GC, and Patty Jewett GC.
Since 1916, the growth of the association has been dramatic, and the CWGA has done its best to serve and respond to its changing and growing membership. Today the CWGA is made up of approximately 250 member clubs, encompassing almost 17,000 golfers.
As the CWGA enters its next millennium, the original goals and objectives established in 1916 by that special group of eight individuals are still in force today and the association as a whole is stronger than ever. Through the commitment, support, and dedication of the volunteers, staff members, member clubs, and tournament players, the CWGA has become one of the nation’s leading golf associations.
Information for this article was taken from historical documents at the CWGA office.
*Interlocken GC: About 9-Holes of the current Willis Case GC was once part of Interlocken GC. The rest of the former golf course is now a shopping center.