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updated: 10/15/2011 8:54 AM

Elgin women's golf league celebrates 60 years

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  • From left, Martha Zeno, Thelma Sorenson and Ethelyn Thums were among those who played with the Elgin Golferettes during its early years. The group was started by employees of the now defunct Elgin National Watch Company.

      From left, Martha Zeno, Thelma Sorenson and Ethelyn Thums were among those who played with the Elgin Golferettes during its early years. The group was started by employees of the now defunct Elgin National Watch Company.
    Courtesy of Elgin Golferettes

  • Elgin Golferettes celebrate at the end of the 2010 season. The women held a 60th anniversary celebration in September.

      Elgin Golferettes celebrate at the end of the 2010 season. The women held a 60th anniversary celebration in September.
    Courtesy of Elgin Golferettes

 
By Jerry Turnquist
Daily Herald correspondent

It would seem that a women's golf league that began with 24 of the 32 members never having played golf before wouldn't have much of a chance of surviving, let alone thriving for decades.

But, some things seem to defy the odds, and recently the Elgin Golferettes -- a group that began in this very manner -- held a celebration to mark its 60th year of existence.

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According to club records, this unique league was formed in 1951 for employees of Elgin's largest business, the Elgin National Watch Company. It joined three men's leagues in existence at the time called the "Duffers," "Hackers" and "Golfers."

"The ladies who established our league did so as a way to get fresh air, exercise, and have fun," said longtime member Sue McIntyre. "Company executives were very forward thinking by encouraging recreation and leisure time activities for their employees."

The women's league originally called the "Whackers," arranged for club members to receive lessons from Willie Leith, golf pro at the Elgin Country Club. The goal for some women was to break 90 -- this was for nine holes of golf.

The watch factory closed in the mid-1960s, but the Elgin Golferettes continued to thrive by adding other "working girls," explained club members. The women now play at Randall Oaks Golf Course on Tuesday evenings -- the same day of the week since they began.

The club which currently has about 30 active members say that more than 250 women have been a part of their group over the years. Some of these longtime members were in attendance at the league's recent banquet.

Among them was 96-year-old Angie Lullie who had worked at the factory and played for 24 years.

Other attendees included Barbara Poole who played for 26 years, and Marlene Hall, a current player and former Watch Factory employee who has played for 54 years.

Another longtime player was Jane Unger who has been part of the league for 41 years.

The women, wearing special skirts with an anniversary logo, embraced the 1950s theme in earnest decorating their golf carts with poodle skirts, bobby socks and LP records. One cart was completely surrounded by a turquoise painted cardboard cutout of a 1957 Chevy.

Numerous stories were shared including those of the times the league would take a bus to tournaments and the women could all take a change of clothes so they could look "sassy" for the evening banquet.

Another told a story of taking a divot so large that there were worms in the clump of dirt.

"The weather was spectacular and we had a tremendous time," added McIntyre. "It was nice to see that the league continues to have fun after 60 years."

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