During the summer of her 13th birthday, Connie Oldershaw was introduced to golf when her father took her out to a course. "I was lucky. I had parents who gave me lots of opportunities. I seemed to be a person who liked to do things and to have goals. I took violin and piano lessons. I was a figure skater. Then one day Dad took me to the golf course and after that, I was mostly interested in golf. He signed me up for lessons and I guess I just took to it like a duck to water."
Connie achieved rapid success in the sport. At age 14, with only a year of experience under her belt, she finished as runner-up in the Spokane Women's City Amateur. In 1951 at the age of 16, she won that event as well as the Idaho and Washington State women's titles.
Golf for juniors in the 1950's was not like it is today. "Now, all the city courses and country clubs have big junior programs in the spring that encourage a lot of kids to get involved with golf. It's much more available. I was fortunate in that I had a family who encouraged me to start and they were very supportive to me."
Even at an early age, Connie was extremely competitive. She had to be in order to survive against Northwest players such as Ann (Quast) Sander, Grace (DeMoss) Zwahalen, Edean Ihlandfeldt, and Pat (Lesser) Harbottle. "I started to do well in tournaments from the very start. But I didn't think of it as being anything but fun. I liked to practice and to compete. At the time, somebody said I should enter some tournaments."
While going head to head against the future national women's champions from the Northwest in the 1950's, Guthrie was never able to become the PNGA women's champion. However, she did gain medalist honors in PNGA women's events in 1952, 1953, 1957 and 1974. She was a semifinalist in 1951 at Spokane's Manito Golf & Country Club, losing to Grace (DeMoss) Zwahalen Guthrie later won the PNGA Women's title in 1984.
Connie's Extended "Respite"
Following the 1957 golf season, Connie's priorities changed due to motherhood. "For anyone who is raising six children, there are many demands. My priorities were to do the best by my family. I was a full-time wife and mother."
In 1980, with most of her children grown, Connie learned the Washington State Women's Golf Association Championship was going to be played in Spokane. The tournament rekindled her competitive flame, and she decided to return to golf. Amazingly, despite decades away from the game, Guthrie won the event.
She was philosophical when recalling that tournament win. "Sometimes I would miss not playing. It takes constant practice to play as well as you can, to play to your potential. I worked hard prior to the championship. It was very difficult starting over again, especially if you've been away from it for many years. It's hard to concentrate and keep your mind on what you're doing. It's like a piano being out of tune, I guess. Golf is a lonely sport if you do not like it. You have to enjoy practicing. It's just the same with things like hiking and bicycling. You have to enjoy it to be successful. But there isn't any excellence without hard work and discipline. "I hadn't given much thought to ever being a champion again. After winning the state title, it proved to me that golf can be played forever. It's truly a game for all seasons in a person's life. You're a student, then a homemaker or worker, and golf can always be there for you. And I think that is the most exciting part about golf. It takes patience to be a champion, but anybody who wants to work at it can be successful."
A Big Year
Connie's competitive schedule was altered in the summer of 1983. While vacationing in Arizona, she fell, breaking her foot and tearing some ankle ligaments. But after extended rest and therapy, she returned to golf with renewed verve in 1984, winning the titles that had eluded her in the 1950's. At Port Ludlow, Guthrie won her first PNGA Women's Amateur Championship, besting Hane Harris of Inglewood Country Club, 5 & 4. During the 1984 championship, Connie dominated younger opponents, winning all of her matches by scores greater than 5 &4.
Guthrie once discussed what it takes to beat younger competition. "Being older helps in some ways because your mental game is better. Your attitude and mental toughness are better. Before the first match, you might get cold feet and say to yourself, 'Why am I here?' But after you start playing, you realize you're really in control. One of the girls, Paula Gamble, who I defeated in the semifinals, played on the University of Washington golf team. She won the Greater Seattle Women's Amateur Championship. During that event, Paula was supposed to have made 10 or 11 birdies, and absolutely just just killed her opponent. My success (against Gamble) perhaps had something to do with being older and having a tough mental attitude. I decided I could play, too, and that whole week at Ludlow I just played my best. I was never over par in any of my matches."
In the fall of 1984 at Tacoma Country & Golf Club, Connie renewed old acquaintances at the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur. The field was sprinkled with former national champions, including Pat Harbottle and Dorothy Porter, the 1949 U.S. Women's Amateur champion and winner of four senior women's titles. Guthrie shot 227 for the 54 holes, nosing our Janice Calin by two strokes. Finally, Connie had earned the national title that put her alongside other great Northwest golfers.
Connie attributed her success as a senior player to maturity. "When you're older, a good mental attitude makes you play smarter golf. When you're older, it's like putting your swing into a computer. It has to be subconscious, almost automatic. And when you're a little older and make a mistake, you don't take it quite as hard. It's not that you don't get angry, but I think I can handle it better than I used to . You know that you're not going to hit every shot perfectly. It actually helps the subconscious, automatic takes over. So I think it's really better in golf as you get older. The only weakness is in physical stamina."
Connie placed a second U.S. Senior Women's title in her trophy case in 1986. And a second PNGA win came in 1993, when she added the PNGA Senior Women's Amateur Championship -- played at her home course, Hayden Lake Country Club -- to her growing list of accomplishments. Golf to Connie Oldershaw Guthrie has certainly been a game for all seasons, encompassing much of her life. For her wonderful career in amateur golf, Guthrie was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame in 1997.