The gals from Chagrin Valley Country Club were solely focused on splitting their points with Westwood Country Club during the final team play of the Cleveland Women’s Golf Association last Thursday at their home links in Moreland Hills.
Chagrin Valley owned a 6 1/2-point lead on Westwood entering the final round and just needed to hold steady among 14 clubs in the field. Kirtland Country Club, 23 points back, was also giving the team title a chase but was not in the same foursome as the Chagrin Valley and Westwood linksters, and therefore remained a dark horse.
From 2009 to 2017, Kirtland and Westwood were the clubs to beat, with Westwood capturing a three-peat title in 2017, before Chagrin Valley dethroned the champs by 20 points in 2018 – its first championship since team play began in 1966.
“Last year, we all wanted to attain it, and we were more the aggressor in beating our opponents,” said Sharen Bakke, of Chagrin Valley. “And this year we were more the defender. We were more cautious. So, we knew that, if we just did what we had been doing, that we’d be fine, but we couldn’t flip up.”
Also competing for Chagrin Valley last week were CWGA District Championship runner-up Dawn Swit, team captain Joanne Vogt, Maggie Kwasny and Katrina Nystrom. Vogt and Bakke were in the championship flight of eight golfers during the previous week’s district championship, while Kwasny in the first flight.
During team play, foursomes include golfers with similar handicaps from different teams who are trying to take points from one another on each hole.
For example, if one player pars a hole and the other three bogey it, then the low shooter would earn one point from each of the other players for three points. Or, if three players par a hole and one player bogeys it, then the bogey shooter would earn zero points with the three other players taking one point apiece.
And while Chagrin Valley controlled its own destiny against Westwood, Kirtland’s team of Moya Dacey, Mary Ann Bierman, Kathy Klindera, Sally Conley and Shirley White – three of whom are former CWGA district champions and one a district runner-up – were coming on hot.
“Kirtland really was the dark horse, because they were not playing in our foursome, and they were only 20 points behind, and we thought they could have easily snuck in and swooped in and taken first place,” Kwasny said. “And, so, it wasn’t until the final points were tallied, you know, we had no idea until the last minute when they were announcing the scores.”
The Chagrin Valley linksters finished team play with 737 points to defend their title, besting runner-up Kirtland, 717 1/2 points, Westwood, 703 points, The Country Club in Pepper Pike, 625 1/2 points, and the rest of the 14-team field.
Chagrin Valley members Lauren Patrick and Sonia Mintun also competed in various team plays this summer to contribute to the repeat title.
Kirtland was the most improved team, after finishing eighth with 599 points in 2018.
“It was different,” Kwasny said about repeating the title. “I think it was just really exciting to know that it was not a one-and-done, that we were able to sustain for at least two years, and now we can hope we can shoot for a three-peat. It was fun the whole season, because everybody was just super focused on having a good performance every time we went out.”
The 2019 CWGA team play tour began on May 23 at Avon Oaks Country Club and then resumed with rounds at Lake Forest Country Club in Hudson, Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood and Elyria Country Club, before concluding at Chagrin Valley last week.
While the Chagrin Valley gals had home-links advantage, it’d be tough for them to forget 2017, when the final team play was also on their home course but they finished runners-up by three points to Westwood.
“It’s one of these things where you are more confident playing on your own course, but then you might not think as much on your own course just because you know where all the trouble is and you’ve been everywhere on your course,” Bakke said. “And I think, when you’re on a different course, your senses are more alert.”
Bakke, who was a CWGA District Championship semifinalist the previous week, losing against clubmate Swit, 4 and 3, held the No. 2 position in the lineup for Chagrin Valley in the final team play and was in a foursome with Westwood’s Katy Kahler, who was the first-flight winner the previous week.
“She was playing very well,” Bakke said going against Kahler in team play. “She was playing very consistently. She birdied the first hole and parred about the next five holes. And that was our directive going in, that we had to get at least half of the points from our Westwood opponent. And, you know, you realize it’s a team effort. And the whole idea of the team is that, if one person isn’t doing well, is that there are others to pick up the slack.”
While Chagrin Valley knew its directive for the final team play, it’s difficult to gauge where a team stands during the first three team plays, because, with 14 clubs, linksters switch from foursomes and threesomes throughout the tour.
Bakke said team statistician Barb Schulak provided Chagrin Valley its point-per-match averages throughout the summer, which showed a slight deficit against Westwood after the third team play.
Also in the foursomes with Chagrin Valley and Westwood linksters last Thursday were players from Barrington Golf Club in Aurora and Elyria Country Club.
Helene D’Andrea, of Elyria, won the 2019 CWGA District Championship, 4 and 2, during a 36-hole final against Swit the previous week. After playing three rounds against each other during the district championship, the two were at it again last Thursday.
“That was funny to see those two going at it again, another 18 holes,” Kwasny said.
Also playing in the top foursome with Swit and D’Andrea for the final team play were Chris Shibley, of Barrington, and Maureen Adler, of Westwood.
“It’s lovely, because they’re all lovely people and you can enjoy your day as well, but it’s fun to have a team event in the game of golf, because you’re usually competing for yourself,” Kwasny said. “I think it brings a lot of camaraderie within your club, with the women you’re usually competing against the most, and it kind of brings everybody together.
“And I think it helps us to get to know on a better level the ladies from the other clubs as well, which makes for a strong CWGA organization.”
Kwasny, who was in a foursome with Linda Brogan, of Westwood, Rose Lerner, of Barrington, and Kim Tweardy, of Elyria, said the final team play brought about all the stresses and pleasures associated with any competition when a championship is on the line.
After the final scores were tallied, the champagne was flowing for the Chagrin Valley gals on their home patio.
“It was very good camaraderie after, and it was just a matter of a job well done,” Bakke said. “We all knew what we had to do, and we did it.”