The Great Ladies in the History of Golf Québec
Despite what some people might say, the acronym GOLF is far from meaning "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden".
Indeed, golf was one of the first sports to attract women's participation, leading to the first British Women's Amateur Championship in 1893. In Québec, women's competitions can be traced as far back as 1901 when local star Lilias Young won the first Canadian Amateur Championship held at the Royal Montreal Golf Club.
Going back even further, it was Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots between 1542 and 1567, who is known as the first female golfer in history, during her otherwise tumultuous life. Her clubs were carried by students whom she called her "cadets", given her French upbringing. Soon the word was distorted to "caddie".
The hundred-year-old Québec Women’s Amateur Championship
With its first edition held in 1920 at the Country Club of Montréal and won by Mrs. Frank Ahearn of the Royal Ottawa, the Provincial Amateur Championship remains the oldest women's tournament still in existence in Québec.
Mrs. Joseph A. Dagenais of the Club Laval-sur-le-Lac had the great honour of becoming, in 1929, the first French-speaking winner of the event. She also showed her longevity by winning the championship three more times, the last time in 1953.
Also en route to the LPGA, Maude-Aimée LeBlanc (Le Mirage) and Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Royal Québec) also dominated the event for three consecutive years. In 2008, Maude-Aimée set the championship record with a combined score of 209 (-7) at the Camelot Golf and Country Club.
Summerlea's Michèle Guilbault also achieved a hat trick between 1977 and 1979 as did Louise Larochelle (Cap-Rouge/Country Club) between 1974 and 1996.
In the senior and mid-amateur divisions
The Provincial Senior Championship, which has been in existence since 1969, was owned by Monique Langlais of Royal Québec, who won the title nine times over a period of fifteen years between 1980 and 1994. Dulcie Lyle of Kanawaki dominated between 1970 and 1974 with five consecutive victories.
Mireille Beauregard (Summerlea), Andrée O'Doherty (Shawbridge) and Marie-Thérèse Torti (Vallée du Richelieu) also achieved the hat trick.
In the mid-amateur category, the competition has only been in existence since 2004 and has been dominated by Mary Ann Hayward (Whitlock) six times on her way to the Québec Golf Hall of Fame, and by Marie-Thérèse Torti who won the competition four times.
Marie-Thérèse Torti's unrivalled record
It will take a while before anyone can match Marie-Thérèse's record with an impressive total of 25 victories in provincial events and her career is far from being over. What is even more remarkable is that, at one point or another in her far from finished golf career, she has etched her name on every trophy that still exists to date. First of all, in the Jocelyne Bourassa Series: both the amateur (1) and senior (3) divisions of the Women’s Provincial Championship, the Debbie Savoy Morel Senior Cup (4), and both the amateur (1) and senior (2) categories of the Players’ Cup. In addition, she won the Mid-Amateur Championship (4), both the amateur (3) and senior (2) divisions of the Match Play Championship as well as the Suzanne-Beauregard Commemorative Tournament (6).
In Canadian Championships
Many Québec female players have distinguished themselves on the national scene. Among them, let's start with the great Jocelyne Bourassa who won the Canadian Amateur Championship in 1965 when she was still a junior and again in 1971 before joining the LPGA Tour and brilliantly winning the La Canadienne tournament at the Montréal Municipal Golf Club in 1973, which to this day is still the only Québec victory on a major tour.
Prior to her career on the LPGA, Lisa Meldrum (Royal Montreal) was the most productive with a Provincial Junior Championship in 2000 followed by a hat-trick in the amateur category between 2001 and 2003. Likewise, Marie-Josée Rouleau (Country Club of Montreal) was the only Canadian golfer to win the Canadian Championship at the junior (1987), amateur (1992) and professional (2006) levels.
The Québec golf community was very proud in 1971 when its representatives won a hat-trick in the Canadian championships with Louise Larochelle (junior), Jocelyne Bourassa (amateur) and Dulcie Lyle (senior).
Whitlock's Judy Darling, inducted into the Québec Golf Hall of Fame in 1998, dominated the Canadian Junior Championship in 1957, as well as the Canadian Amateur Championship in 1960 and 1961, matching her mother Dora’s (née Virtue) achievement of 1936.
A dream foursome in the Hall of Fame
In 2017, Debbie Savoy Morel completed the dream foursome of great ladies inducted into the Québec Golf Hall of Fame, joining Jocelyne Bourassa (1996), Judy Darling-Evans (1998) and Mary Ann Hayward (2011), some of whose accomplishments have been recounted above.
After a prolific career that has taken her around the globe, Debbie was the first woman in Canada to hold a Head Professional position at a 36-hole club when she accepted the role at Le Mirage. Named 13 times in Canada's "top 10" women golfers, Debbie was a member of the Canadian team for seven years and a member of the Team Québec 14 times before devoting herself full-time to her members at Le Mirage. This past January, she was honoured by the PGA of Canada as the 2019 PGA Professional of the Year.
As one can appreciate, the first century of Golf Québec has been very fertile in great performances of all kinds on the part of our women golfers.
Marcel Paul Raymond