2012-08-09 / Sports

Women’s league still a big hit at Sugar Loaf after 4 decades

By Mike Spencer
Of The Enterprise staff


MARY ANNE Ball, from left, Shirley Ranville and Patt Bronson stand on a green at Sugar Loaf The Old Course. Ball and Bronson were original members in the Women's League and no longer play. Ranville, a past president, is now the league’s golf outing fundraiser event chairperson. MARY ANNE Ball, from left, Shirley Ranville and Patt Bronson stand on a green at Sugar Loaf The Old Course. Ball and Bronson were original members in the Women's League and no longer play. Ranville, a past president, is now the league’s golf outing fundraiser event chairperson. Mary Anne was the first leading lady and Patt Bronson was a hired hand when the Tuesday Sugar Loaf Women’s Golf League started more than four decades ago.

The two got together recently at Sugar Loaf The Old Course to reminisce about the Women’s League that still plays today.

“I think it’s great that the league is still going,” said Bronson, who still plays golf on Sundays at Sugar Loaf but not in the Tuesday League. “I just hope they don’t stop.”

The Women’s League started out playing nine holes. When the course was expanded to 18 holes, the women also played 18 holes.


DONNA NEHIL of Suttons Bay watches her approach shot on No. 13 at Sugar Loaf The Old Course in this week’s Tuesday Women’s League play. DONNA NEHIL of Suttons Bay watches her approach shot on No. 13 at Sugar Loaf The Old Course in this week’s Tuesday Women’s League play. “We had more golfers back then,” said Bronson, figuring there were about 40 during a peak season.

Today the group, which ranges from 16-20, goes off shotgun-style at 8:30 a.m. and finishes up just after noon.

“Most of them are retirees like me,” said Shirley Ranville, past president and the league’s golf outing fundraiser event chairperson. “There’s good camaraderie and competitive golf and it’s lots of fun.”

Suttons Bay’s Donna Nehil, who was president in 2002, also started in the league from Day 1 and continues to play.

“It means that I’m so old,” Nehil said jokingly.

Nehill said the course is one of the reasons she still plays at Sugar Loaf.


RON KOHLER of Traverse City eyes up a putt on No. 16 in last year’s Fleis Education Fund Golf Outing. RON KOHLER of Traverse City eyes up a putt on No. 16 in last year’s Fleis Education Fund Golf Outing. “We love the course,” she said. “And we love the pro (Rich Dubs).

“He’s wonderful here.”

Ball says her memory isn’t what it used to be, but she recalled a lot of good times.

“We were all part of the development of Sugar Loaf trying to promote year-round activities,” said Ball, who lived near the ski resort. “It was only nine holes at that time and the pro shop wasn’t here, it was at Sugar Loaf.”

Ball, who played just four years and was the low gross champion in the first year, said the Women’s League was initiated by then club pro Fran Mahoney.

“Fran was a go-getter and she gave us lessons,” Ball recalled.

Ball said only the Leland Country Club and Traverse City had leagues for women in 1971.


MARY KENT IRELAND of Northport watches her short putt go toward and into the cup on No. 13. Ireland went on to win the game of the week — net par on par 4s. MARY KENT IRELAND of Northport watches her short putt go toward and into the cup on No. 13. Ireland went on to win the game of the week — net par on par 4s. “A lot of it was social,” Ball said. “We invited other ladies groups for a tournament.

“And the luncheons had style shows. It was a lot of fun.”

Bronson, who will turn 84 this month, looked over a list of the early league champions. It was like going down memory lane.

“These are all my age and here I am still living,” said Bronson, who also worked at Sugar Loaf in the retail clothing operation.

Bronson remembered a year when the men were invited to play with the women in a tournament.

One of the holes was at the top of the Sugar Loaf ski hill, she said. And there was another hole where golfers hit from a tee and had to hit the ball over the clubhouse.


HATTIE TOWNSEND of Lake Ann watches her approach shot on No. 13. HATTIE TOWNSEND of Lake Ann watches her approach shot on No. 13. Bronson recalled one spring when skiers arrived at the resort only to see that spring had arrived early.

“They called home asking for family members to bring golf clubs,” she said.

Bronson also remembers one year winning the second flight in the women’s league.

“I still play and can hit the ball pretty good,” Bronson said. “But now it’s nine holes and lunch. That’s my theory.”

Bronson said there’s something good about playing golf.

“I think it’s a great exercise and it makes you concentrate,” Bronson said. “And it’s also a nice social function.”

Ball said she remembers the league playing different games but not as many.

The league plays different games each week and has prize pots for chip-ins, longest drive or closest to the pin.


LINDA CHERNE of Northport lines up a putt from the edge of the No. 13 green. LINDA CHERNE of Northport lines up a putt from the edge of the No. 13 green. This past week, the game was net par scores on all Par 4s.

Mary Kent Ireland of Northport won the game. Doreen Dean was second. Nehil took third and Ranville and Suzanne Franko tied for fourth.

Ranville said the various games make each week of golf interesting.

“Low putts, I hate that game because Iva Stowe always wins,” Ranville said. “She’s a good putter.

“I like the longest drive. It’s my favorite.”

“Shirley can hit the ball, no doubt,” Bronson said.

Bronson, Ball and Ranville agreed there are two holes that give the women fits.

The old No. 2 and No. 8, which are now No. 12 and 17, were “dreaded holes,” the women said.

“They were the two worst holes for any lady playing,” Bronson noted.


JUDY LEASK, a first-timer in the Women’s League at Sugar Loaf, keeps an eye on her fairway shot. JUDY LEASK, a first-timer in the Women’s League at Sugar Loaf, keeps an eye on her fairway shot. “No. 8 had the rock pile,” Ranville said. “It’s a long, long hole.

“If you could drive it past the rock pile with out hitting the pile, that’s good.”

“The one that I dreaded was the gully on No. 2,” Ball said. “I never got across it.”

But it never kept her from trying.

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