By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Cleveland Women’s Golf Association is celebrating its 90th anniversary all summer long, and this celebration is about more that just the game of golf, it is also about the lifelong friendships these women have made over the years, while welcoming in a new generation of female golfers.
“The last four (individual CWGA winners) have been ‘kids,’” Mary Beth Wilson, captain of Lakewood Country Club’s team, said. “(The young girls) are very tough to play against, but they make us better golfers and they are the future of the country club. I keep telling everyone to support these kids, because country clubs are going downhill, and I want to be the grandma who is able to watch the kids (play golf) and I want my country club to survive.
“In 1994, if a girl wanted to play golf in high school, they had to join the boys team. Now there are more than 250 girls varsity teams in Northeast Ohio.”
Wilson, along with playing in the CWGA, works with promoting girls junior golf.
“Our Ohio Girls Golf Association (OGGA) is not just the country club kids. We offer lessons at ranges and we are making it a point to not just be for country club members, but for everyone who has an interest in golf,” Wilson said.
Running the tournaments for the CWGA is no easy task, and first-year teams manager Deborah Manns has been learning on the fly.
“The most difficult part is getting all of the team rosters from the captains at each event,” Manns explained. “I’ve been on the CWGA board of directors for five years, serving as the apprentice to the team manager for one year. So last year, we had two people leave, so I volunteered for the open teams manager position.”
The 2013 CWGA team-play schedule started in May at Avon Oaks Country Club, continued throughout Northeast Ohio and makes a stop tomorrow morning at the Lakewood Country Club, located in Westlake.
“(Avon Oaks) started being a member-club of the CWGA back in the 1960s,” Judd Stephenson, Avon Oaks club professional, said. “The CWGA is the ladies’ equivalent of the Northern Ohio Golf Association (NOGA). There are several ladies’ amateur golf governing bodies in the city, but the CWGA has been the longest established, and this team-play format was originally designed for the ladies at each club with the five lowest handicaps to play each other in tournaments with no handicap.
“They also have better-ball and alternate-shot tournaments as well,” he added. “All the tournaments culminate in championship week, where they crown the match-play champion in each flight.”
This year’s championship week is Aug. 4-8, at The Country Club in Pepper Pike.
Records show that as early as 1890, the Women’s Team at The Cleveland Golf Club challenged the Cleveland Cricket Club to a match. In 1926 CWGA, organized in 1923, had 10 active clubs playing for the team championship. That year, Westwood won, Shaker was second, Oakwood third and Mayfield fourth.
By 1935 twenty-three clubs were competing. During the war years, there was no team play, but it was revived in 1942. In 1946 teams were divided into three groups, the Red, White and Blue playing with handicaps. The Red team played the winner of a Blue/White match. By the 1950s, that format was abandoned because of the difficulties of using handicaps. Between 1951 and 1958, 16 teams qualified five out of six players, who were then paired accordingly by the USGA numerical draw. In 1960, the CWGA adopted the Nassau point system and played in two divisions of six teams each.
Today, all teams are in one division playing without handicaps. The team winning the most number of points after five rounds of play receives the trophy. The runner-up trophy, honoring the late Helen O’Brites, 1948 CWGA President, is awarded to the second-place team. Play is in threesomes and foursomes to accommodate the 14-team field. Since points will vary because of the number of teams in a group, it will be more difficult to determine which team is leading in points until the last matches.
CWGA history provided by Sally Conley