100 YEARS: First 50 Years of the Michigan Women’s AmateurCelebrated by Champions
Written By: Greg Johnson
Pictured: WMGA members, officers and champions posed for this photo at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Michigan Women’s Amateur in 1966: Standing, from left, Jenny Weiss, Rylma Marquardt, Mrs. E.L. Goddard, Mrs. Keith C. LeClair, Mrs. John Hume, Pat Devany, Mrs. C.E. Schrems, Fonnie Reynolds and Margaret Russell. Seated, from left Elsie Hilding, Vi Hanley, Dorothy Higbie, Sally Werner, Dorothy McGiverin and Alleen Sell. Weiss, Hanley and Higbie furnished the trophies from their personal collections.
100 Years, A GAM Special Series: This is the fifth of 10 stories leading up to the 100th Michigan Women’s Amateur, Aug. 8-12, at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden.
Sally Sharp, who became Mrs. T.M. Werner in the records and Sally Werner to most, was the most accomplished golfer in the fifth decade of what became the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship.
She was also one of 14 former champions who attended a special 50th anniversary celebration of the championship in 1966 at Farmington Country Club.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime honor to be President during a most significant year in the history of the WMGA (Women’s Michigan Golf Association),” Alleen Sell wrote in her history of the WMGA and championship. “I though seriously about what I could do to make it a memorable occasion for everyone involved.”
Her decision after consulting many others was to invite all the past champions and past presidents of the WMGA to the special dinner. That resulted in the 14 former champions representing 29 championships and six past presidents representing 22 years in office.
“The results were most gratifying,” Sell said.
Letters of congratulations on 50 years were received from then Gov. George Romney, then Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh and from the leading golf associations.
The champions in attendance included Elsie Hilding of The Highlands Country Club in Grand Rapids, who had won in 1923 and was 77 in 1966, 80-year-old Vi Hanley, a four-time champion from Oakland Hills, five-time champion Dorothy Higbie of Country Club of Detroit, Ellen Hess, the 1935 winner from Saginaw who had moved to Grand Rapids, five-time champion Jenny Weiss of Flint, 1938 champion Margaret Russell of Oakland Hills ,1942 champion Marjorie Row of Meadowbrook Country Club, 1950 champion Patricia Devany of Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club, 1953 champion Rylma Marquardt of Gowanie Golf Club, 1954 champion Fonnie Reynolds of Country Club of Lansing, two-time champion Mrs. Keith C. LeClair of Barton Hills Country Club, two-time champion Sharon Miller of Battle Creek Country Club, 1966 champion Joyce Kazmierski of Grosse Ile G&CC and Sally (Sharp) Werner of Forest Lake Country Club.
Alleen Sell’s history of the WMGA reveals some first names and maiden names, but it was custom of the time to list married women under their husband’s name, as in Sell being Mrs. Kenneth G. Sell and not referred to as Alleen, and Sharp being referred to as Mrs. T.M. Werner. A search of records and scrapbooks, and the official list of past champions, did not reveal several first names or maiden names.
Sharp, who attended Michigan State and later became Mrs. T.M. Werner, won her first title in 1956 turning back Dorie Scripsema of Cascade Hills in Grand Rapids at Muskegon Country Club. She won again in 1958 at Plum Hollow and ’61 at Knollwood beating Marquardt both times.
She notched number four by turning back a young qualifying medalist in Patti Shook of South Haven in 1963 at Western Golf & Country Club. Shook, who later became Patti Boice, would be a medalist and runner-up three times before becoming the winningest Michigan Women’s Amateur champion by taking the title seven times between 1967 and 1979.
Sharp, meanwhile, was called the “Grand Slam” champion by former Detroit News writer John Walter. She twice won the Michigan Women’s Amateur, the WMGA Match Play and the two Women’s District Golf Association major tournaments in the same year (1958, 1961).
The 50th championship had 112 entrants at Farmington Country Club. Shook was second again, only this time she was beaten 3 and 2 in an 18-hole match by Joyce Kazmierski of Grosse Ile G&CC.
Kazmierski, who won again in 1968, won two Women’s National Collegiate Championships while at Michigan State, became a professional and a regular on the LPGA Tour with 10 second-place tour finishes without a win. Like Shook, she is in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. Sharp is not, though she has been previously nominated.