Before Sahalee, seven women's golf majors played in Northwest

By Todd Miles
Published on

The first professional women's major golf tournament was the 1930 Women's Western Open.

Except at the time, it did not know it was a major. It wasn't declared one until the LPGA Tour was founded 20 years later.

Women's golf has plenty of change -- and often, even at the highest level. Majors have come and gone, like the Western Open, which no longer exists.

In fact, neither do other former major tournaments -- the Titleholders Championship (1937-72) or the du Maurier Classic (1979-2000).

Today, including the upcoming KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club, there are five women's majors. The others are the U.S. Women's Open, the ANA Inspiration (formerly the Nabisco Dinah Shore), the Women's British Open and The Evian Championship.

Here are the women's majors that have been held in the Northwest over the years:

1934 Women's Western Open, Portland (Ore.) Golf Club: In those early years, golfers had one medal-play round to make match play -- then it was one-on-one golf.

Mrs. Martin Hunter was the medalist with 77, but the runner-up -- Portland amateur Marian McDougall (Herron) was the one who ran the table. She defeated Mrs. Guy Riegel, 9 and 7, in the finals.

Not known as a long hitter or fantastic ball-striker, McDougall admitted years later she got up for big matches, and overachieved a bit.

Her amateur career in the Northwest was decorated: She won the PNGA Women's Amateur title six times, and was the first woman from the region to travel East to play in national tournaments.

Eventually, McDougall became the head professional at Waverly Country Club. And in 1979, she was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame in 1979.

1946 U.S. Women's Open, Spokane Country Club: This was big -- the USGA debuted its first women's major, and it was held in Eastern Washington.

And like the Western Open, this first event was match play -- 39 golfers qualifying for the 32-player bracket.

Although only six professionals were in the field, two made the 36-hole finals -- medalist Patty Berg and Betty Jameson.

Jameson led early, but Berg rallied to even the match after the midway point. She went on to win, 5 and 4, and earn $5,600 for her victory -- in war bonds.

The next year, the USGA changed it to a 72-hole stroke play event -- which was won by Jameson.

As for Berg, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, this was the sixth of her record 15 major titles. She also was one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour.

1959 Women's Western Open, Rainier Golf and Country Club: Only two under-par rounds were recorded in this 72-hole stroke play event -- and it was by the same woman.

South Carolina professional Betsy Rawls rode a hot putter -- she needed just 23 putts in a final-round 71 -- to defeat Berg and amateur JoAnne Gunderson by six shots.

The win was a highlight in Rawls' best season as a professional -- 10 wins. She also captured the Women's PGA Championship.

This was the sixth of eight major titles for Rawls, who totaled 55 LPGA Tour victories.

This tournament was especially noteworthy for Gunderson -- later JoAnn Carner -- who hailed from Kirkland. She eventually became the only women to win a U.S. Junior Girls, a U.S. Women's Amateur and a U.S. Women's Open.

1988 and 1991 du Maurier Classic, Vancouver (B.C.) Golf Club: It has gone by different names over the years, but it has always been known as one thing -- the national open of Canada.

And for a 13-year span when it was a major, the du Maurier was won by Americans.

Two Americans won these tournaments staged just outside Vancouver as well -- Sally Little in 1988, and Nancy Scranton in 1991. Both won with identical 9-under 279 scores.

This was Little's last of 15 LPGA Tour victories. She defeated up-and-coming English star Laura Davies by one stroke.

Scranton was a bit more of a surprise. She has been on the LPGA Tour for six years -- and this was her breakthrough victory. She birdied the final two holes to break a tie with Debbie Massey, settling for a three-shot victory.

In 2001, this event was replaced by the Women's British Open as a major.

1997 and 2003 U.S. Women's Open, Pumpkin Ridge Witch Hollow (Ore.): The greater Portland area had a new golfing gem on its hands -- Pumpkin Ridge, which had been only open for five years before the USGA held one of its biggest champions at the site.

And it was a memorable debut.

Nancy Lopez was running out of opportunities to grab the only major that eluded her. She was 40. And she had her best week, becoming the only woman to shoot for rounds in the 60s at the U.S. Women's Open.

But it did not get the job done. Alison Nicholas held off Lopez by one stroke. Two-time defending champion Annika Sorenstam did not make the cut.

And if you thought Nicholas was an unheralded U.S. Open winner, what happened six years later was out of a storybook.

Unknown Hilary Lunke won a three-player, all-American 18-hole playoff against Kelly Robbins and Angela Stanford.

Lunke became the first woman to win after advancing through U.S. Open local and sectional qualifying. This also was the Stanford product's only LPGA Tour triumph.

This article was written by TODD MILLES from The News Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.