Golf came naturally to the petite, Montana blonde, Edean Anderson. The incentive to achieve stardom on the links was instilled at an early age by her father. "My father, who was an auto dealer, told me that he would give me a new convertible when I won my first state championship."
At age 13, she progressed toward that goal with phenomenal speed under the tutelage of Bill Roberts, the professional at Helena's Last Chance Golf Club. At 14, Edean won the first of six Montana State Women's Amateur championships. Because she was too young to drive, the senior Anderson gave Edean the finances and encouragement – in lieu of a car – to allow his teenage daughter to further her golf game.
In her first PNGA Women's Amateur Championship in 1947 at Portland's Columbia-Edgewater Country Club, Edean garnered medalist honors, but lost to Barbara Smith of Vancouver, Washington, in the second round of match play. In 1948 at Victoria Golf Club, Edean lost in the final to the perennial champion and the then "queen" of PNGA women's golf, Marian McDougall. In 1949, Edean began her amazing run at the women's championship when she and the two Bauer sisters, Marlene and Alice, tied for medalist honors at Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle. Marlene won the playoff with a 77.
At this time, the Bauer sisters of California were among golf's biggest draws, and the 1949 PNGA drew sizable crowds. The spectators were not disappointed. Edean saved much of her fireworks for the final against the tournament-tested Alice. It almost seemed as if Anderson waited until the final 18 to show her stuff. Alice appeared to be on her way to an easy win following a 3-up cushion after the morning round. Seemingly, Edean didn't have a chance. But in a never-say-die style that came to characterize her golf career, Edean persevered. More importantly, she never gave her opponent the impression she had given up.
After lunch, the Montana native started with a birdie, and followed up with birdies at the fifth, seventh and ninth holes to square the match. The two combatants continued throwing birdies at each other. The battle was tight until the 17th, when Edean outdrove her diminutive opponent by 20 yards and then slapped an approach shot to within 16 feet of the cup. Alice put a stymie on Edean's ball. But Anderson edged her approach putt near the hole, laid a stymie in return, and ended the match. Edean did not play the final hole even though a par on 18 would have set a new course record.
Edean's March Through the PNGA ContinuesIn the golden anniversary PNGA Women's Amateur Championship at Manito Golf & Country Club in Spokane, Edean started out by setting a new course record of 36-37, a one-under-par 73. In the final, she overcame a three-hole deficit to overtake her good friend and frequent playing partner, Grace DeMoss. DeMoss was 3-up on the 32nd hole, but lost it to par and then lost the 35th when Edean refused to concede defeat and stuck an approach shot four feet from the hole for a birdie. Edean then hit a 45-yard approach one foot from the hole on the 37th hole. Grace tried valiantly to sink a 10-footer, but it wouldn't drop. The Manito event was the third time Edean and Grace had met in PNGA play, and the third straight time Edean had emerged victorious.
After Edean moved to Corvallis to enroll at Oregon State University in 1949, she and Grace both went under the watchful eyes of golf pro, Al Zimmerman. Edean came to golf naturally, but had no idea what made her swing click. Consequently, when her timing suddenly disappeared she had great difficulty getting her swing back on track. Zimmerman taught Edean the fundamentals of a golf swing. He showed her how to recognize and correct faults when they occurred, and added ball control and specialty shots to her repertoire. She said of this illuminating period, "In 1950 I finally felt I knew what made things go and how to keep them going."
Broadening her HorizonsThough often opponents on the course, DeMoss and Anderson were good friends and each other's best swing monitors, such that each could detect faults in the other's stroke. Using the PNGA events as training grounds for bigger tournaments, the two Northwest stars traveled north, south and east in search of golf's biggest prizes. In 1949 Edean won the Los Angeles City Open, the PNGA, and the Howell Team Trophy with Grace as her partner. In 1950 Edean won the Florida East Coast title and, in 1951, was medalist in three Florida events. Also that year, Edean was the Ormond Beach runner-up and low amateur in an LPGA event at Fresno.
In 1952 Edean teamed with Dick Chapman and went to the finals of the International Mixed Four-Ball event at Orlando Beach, Florida. She traveled north to win the Canadian Women's Open at Edmonton, then was low amateur at the Weathervane event in Seattle. In addition, she won sectional titles in Sacramento, Utah and Montana. In 1953 Edean won the prestigious Women's Trans-Mississippi Amateur at Arizona Country Club in Phoenix.
Edean's high performance level stemmed from her mental toughness, relaxed personality and excellent swing technique. Most opponents liked Edean so well they often pulled for her to win. Carol Babe Bowman, a former PNGA Women's Amateur champion, held quite a lead in the final of the Women's Trans-Mississippi Amateur because of Edean's repeated failures to sink short, easy putts. During the round, Mrs. Bowman said to Edean, "Of course I would like to win, but not with you playing so badly. Go to work and show the people how well you really play." From that moment on, Edean did just that and went on to win the title.
In 1954 Edean met Robert Ihlanfeldt. She recalled their first meeting and whirlwind romance. "Bob came over to play in Montana and we met. Two months later we were married." Because of her ability to shoot low stroke-play scores, Edean gave some consideration to turning professional. By then, her good friend Grace DeMoss had moved to Florida and Edean's life was in limbo. She recalled that period. "I made the best decision of my life. I got married."
Edean moved to Seattle, an area dominated by such fine players as Ruth Jessen, Pat Lesser, JoAnne Gunderson and Anne Quast. But, for the next eight years, her tournament play was limited due to family commitments. In 1962 Edean reappeared on Washington's golf scene in a big way, nearly duplicating the feat previously accomplished by Marian McDougall Herron in the late 1930's. Edean won three consecutive PNGA titles on six different courses. (Marian had won four straight titles.) In 1962 she defeated JoAnne Gunderson – by now called the "Great Gundy" – for the fourth of her five Seattle City Women's Amateur titles. Also in 1962, she won both the PNGA Women's and the Washington State Women's Golf Association Amateurs. This completed a unique "Grand Slam" that has not been duplicated since.
A Life-Long Supporter of Northwest GolfEdean's interest in golf went far beyond pursuing a competitive career. She spent countless hours on several USGA committees and was instrumental in bringing the 1974 U.S. Women's Amateur as well as the 1997 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur to Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle. In 1975 when the University of Washington announced that Edean Ihlanfeldt would coach the UW's women's golf team, no one was surprised that she was asked and had accepted the job.
In 1981 Edean entered the Washington State Women's Golf Association Amateur. Ironically, her opponent in the final was Ann Swanson, whom she had defeated for the same title in 1975. This time Ann triumphed.
Final Attempts at a National TitleIn the fall of 1981, Edean attempted to conquer a hill she had not yet to climbed: win a USGA championship. Though she led after the first round in the USGA Senior Women's Amateur at Spring Lakes, New Jersey, Edean soon realized she was not mentally prepared for the challenge, and finished eighth in the tournament.
Edean returned to Seattle from New Jersey with new vigor and began training in preparation for a run at the title in 1982. In the 1982 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Championship at Kissing Camels Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Edean drove the ball well, hit good approach shots, and played consistently. She shot a 77 and led the field. The tournament was held in trying weather conditions, a fact of life in Northwest golf circles and an advantage for Edean. The final round enjoyed better weather and she had six pars and a birdie on the first seven holes. Her 236 total gave her the victory by four strokes. Afterward, Edean commented, "I never won a national tournament like this. I don't know how long you stay on cloud nine, but I am still there."
When the PNGA introduced a Senior Women's Amateur event in 1986, Edean again rose to the occasion. It was only fitting that she be the winner of the first three events. The wins in the PNGA Senior Women's Amateur gave Edean the distinction of winning more PNGA championships, eight, than any other competitor, male or female, in the association's history.
Edean's legacy continues to this day; the Seattle City Women's Amateur Championship Trophy is named after her, and her win totals ensure she will remain an enduring figure in Northwest golf, especially within the PNGA family. But perhaps her most important mark will be on the many people with whom she played golf. The comment by an unidentified opponent says it all. "Edean is so gracious, so caring, win or lose. The women golfers respect her like crazy. She's known nationwide. Everybody knows and loves Edean."