Washington State Women’s Golf Association celebrates 100 years

Updated: April 2, 2022

2022 is an exciting year for golf in Washington State.  WaGolf, formerly the WSGA and the Washington State Women’s Golf Association (WSWGA) will be celebrating their 100th Anniversary.  The WSGA played their first Championship in 1922 at Yakima CC and the WSWGA was founded and played their first championship at Grays Harbor Country Club the same year.  

The turn of the 20th century found golf becoming more and more popular.  Not only did the game provide the purest forms of competition and skill, but it generated camaraderie, friendship and relaxation, qualities always highly valued by women.  As early as 1912, clubs throughout Washington State were holding exchange matches that were reputed to be played between groups representing the most united players in the Northwest.

Since its inception and first tournament in 1922 at Grays Harbor Country Club in Aberdeen, the WSWGA has been and remains one of the most popular golf organizations and competitive championships in the state.   The first president and champion of the WSWGA was Mrs. W.J. Patterson of the GHCC. She was way ahead of the curve for her time.  Her first name was Frank and she was a masterful woman as her name implies. 

She had a sharp mind and a take charge attitude that served her many interests well.  She was president of a bank and of course the leading light for many years at GHCC.  It was at Mrs. Patterson’s instigation that the WSWGA was founded on August 22, 1922.  Following the qualifying round of the first tournament, the main attraction of the first day was the official formation of the WSWGA.  It would be a unique organization,  The first women’s golf association of its kind in Washington state, solely designed for women and managed exclusively by women. 

The first tournament was pronounced a resounding success and it was decided to make it an annual event.  At the first ever tourney of its kind, the 1922 championship attracted many top players and received a great deal of attention.  The Ladies of GHCC made every effort to make the tourney exciting, competitive, inspiring and above all memorable. The women also included the men in many of their tourney event schedule such as putting contests, mixed competitions and dinner dances all after playing 18 holes.

Later in the fall, taking a cue from the WSWGA Championship tournament, the men held a state championship at Yakima C.C.  A Washington State Golf Association was formed.  The credit for starting this goes to the GHCC Women whose idea for a state tournament for women gave the men an idea.

For years the WSWGA had large fields anywhere from 160-200 contestants which included Public Links players with contestants from Oregon, California and British Columbia.  In 1927 the WSWGA became an association of Washington state private clubs since the fields had become too large.  In 1933, the Washington state Public Links formed their own association.

The WSWGA has boasted great champions.  In 1948-1959 a dynasty emerged with Pat Lesser Harbottle, Ruth Jessen, Ann Quast Sander, JoAnne Gunderson Carner and Edean Ihlanfeldt.  A dynasty unlike any other around.  Many of their Champions are members of the PNGA Hall of fame, some have won USGA titles, British Amateur, Curtis Cup member, Western Amateur, Trans Amateur Championship and National Club Champion. 

The WSWGA will hold their 100th Championship and gala celebration at the Overlake Golf and Country Club July 11-13.  Gwynne Johnson of Overlake is the current president.

Ann Swanson (member of PNGA Hall of Fame) is the winningest WSWGA Champion with nine titles and nine runners up finishes and 10 times medalist.