A Career of Starts & Stops
Joan Edwards-Powell's life in amateur golf has been a series of starts and stops. Most top players enjoy a steady progression of competitions en route to becoming championship-caliber performers. A seemingly innocent introduction to the game as a talented, athletic youngster leads to titles in junior, scholastic, regional and collegiate golf events. Who can predict what happens next? A fine career on one of the major professional tours?
Edwards-Powell's experiences aren't like that. "My golf career has been a series of starts and stops," she said in early 1999. "I envy the players who talk about their love of the game from the very beginning. You know, the person who made a course out of their backyard or stayed on the golf course from sun-up to sun-down. That wasn't me.
"I was dragged to the golf course on junior golf day. My parents belonged to Columbia-Edgewater Country Club in Portland and they loved golf. As their only child, I was expected to love golf, too. Wrong. However, though not overly enthusiastic, I proved to be very good at the game. My parents encouraged Tom Ely, the pro at Columbia-Edgewater at the time, to work with me, and Tom taught me the basic golf swing in the classic style. I guess I have Tom to thank for the fact that due to the upright swing he taught me, I don't have back problems after all these years on the golf course and practice range."
Early Promise Realized
Though initially reticent to play the game, Joan quickly became a fine player capable of reeling off great scores. "My involvement in the PNGA began at an early age," she said. "I was 14 in 1959 when I journeyed to Yakima to play in the PNGA Junior Girls' event and won the first flight. The next year, 1960, it was held in Portland at Oswego Lake Country Club. I qualified with an 89, the 15th to qualify in the championship flight of 16. Sue Jennett had won both the Oregon State Junior Championship and the Oregon Amateur Championship that year and was considered a shoo-in to win the PNGA on the course where she learned to play golf.
"I was her competitor in the semifinals. I won on the 20th hole and went on to win the tournament, my first 'major.' I was such an unknown that when I won the newspapers ran a picture of another girl with the caption, 'Sullivan loses.' They didn't have any pictures of me in their files.
"While playing for the golf team at Wilson High School, I was also the Oregon high school golf champion in 1959-1960 and the PNGA Junior Girls' runner-up in 1961. I played in three U.S. Girls' Junior Championships. They were in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1961 at Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle, and 1962 in Buffalo, New York, where I won my first flight. This was when the tournament was still match play with drop flights. I was in a 13-person playoff for the last spot in the championship flight that year. The 1962 event was my 'swan song' in golf for a long time. My only claim to fame in the nationals was that I lost to the event winners two times.
"I also played in two U.S. Women's Amateur championships during this time. In the U.S. Women's Amateur in Rochester, New York, in 1962, I played a practice round with Althea Gibson and was selected as the 'prettiest contestant.' Can you imagine such a title today?"
First Break from Golf & the Re-entry
Upon graduating from high school, Joan entered Oregon State University, but stayed there only a year because of her mother's illness. Joan returned home and entered Portland State University, where she took her first break from golf. "I graduated from Portland State with a B.S. in Marketing and Management," she said. "It was 1966 and companies were not hiring women for executive positions. My parents were both educators and, like other children, I wanted to make my own way in my own field.
"Fate stepped in, however, in the form of a fellowship. PSU had received a grant to encourage people from different academic disciplines to become teachers. I was approached, interviewed, and selected for the program. Two years later, I had a Master of Science degree and went into teaching. While working on my M.S. at PSU, I was selected Most Outstanding Fellowship student and Most Outstanding Graduate Student in Education. I also earned a 4.0 GPA. My father continued to entice me back to the golf scene with Sunday invitations over the next few years. Eventually, I stuck my toe in the water again and was hooked."
Once she began playing golf again regularly, Edwards-Powell rejoined Columbia-Edgewater in 1971 as a regular member. "I slowly re-entered the tournament swing. The first tournament I entered, the Portland City, I was the medalist and made it to the semifinals. I was hooked again. [Gene] 'Bunny' Mason and Jerry Mowlds were instrumental in reshaping my golf swing for this second run. In recent years, [Columbia-Edgewater's head pro] Dan Hixson has been most helpful in fine-tuning my golf game. I guess he had an ulterior motive since I have been on Dan's team three times for the $50,000 Oregon Team Challenge, and he has won all three times. Pocketing $150,000 has added incentive for him."
Grabbing Titles with Striking Regularity
Joan wasted little time returning to the victory stand, a place she would find very familiar over her long and productive career. During the 1970's, she enjoyed many highlights, including being Columbia-Edgewater's club champion nine out of 10 times. She played a benefit with PGA Tour star, Billy Casper, and won four of her eventual seven titles in the Oregon Women's Golf Association Championship (for members of private clubs). She won four Oregon Coast titles, three Lower Columbia Amateurs, and brought home the victor's hardware from sundry best-ball competitions. Edwards-Powell played in many benefits and, she said, "generally had a good time." While away from the golf course during this prolific period, she continued to teach and both of her daughters were born.
The demands of raising two daughters, Kristin and Sabrina, and playing championship golf led to a new career. "I stayed home for a while when my daughters were born," Edwards-Powell said. "And when I went back to work, I wanted a job with flexible hours. I took a job with Vista Travel Service doing corporate travel, golf vacations and cruises. In this capacity I traveled to many places playing golf."
A New Decade Heralds ChangeThe 1980's brought some changes into the life of Joan Edwards-Powell. She continued to play exceptionally in golf events, reaping more wins in the Oregon Coast Championship, Oregon Women's Golf Association, the Illahe Hills Match-Play tournament, Columbia-Edgewater women's club championships (through 1998, she'd won 15 in all), and best-ball tourneys. In 1987 of that decade she won 13 of the 17 tournaments she entered. Then she and her husband divorced and another hiatus from tournament golf – this one for five years – ensued.
During this time, Joan continued her membership at Columbia-Edgewater, while presenting her daughters the choice of playing golf or not. Kristin decided golf was her bag, while Sabrina said thanks but no thanks. "Drawing on my own experience," Edwards-Powell said, "I accepted both decisions. Kristin, my oldest daughter, went on to win the Portland Interscholastic League championship, get a golf scholarship to Boise State University, and be the first woman golfer to graduate from BSU."
The Golden 1990's
In 1989 Joan married Bob Powell, an avid golfer, skier, squash player, and all-around athlete. Bob and Joan met at Columbia-Edgewater, where both were members. Joan describes this new chapter. "I was managing a department at Nordstrom and again not playing golf regularly. Retail is not conducive to tournament competition and regular practice. Bob encouraged me to reactivate my teaching certificate and work on my golf game. I had missed working with young people, and his encouragement was all I needed."
In 1990 Joan Edwards-Powell returned to the tournament trail and, according to her, began playing her best golf. "I play golf now for the love of the game," she said in 1999 as a plus-one handicap. "I'm a true amateur. I teach high school English, coach the boys' golf team, am a wife and a mother. I try to keep all these roles in perspective. During the school year I'm at work at 7:00 a.m. and teach until 2:30. During golf season I leave school to work with my team from 3:00 until dark, then return home to grade papers and spend a few moments with my husband.
"Like most golfers, I want to give something back to the game. The way I give back is through coaching young men in basic skills, competitive drive, and trying to help them keep their victories and defeats in perspective. Dan Hixson claims I am the most competitive golfer – male, female, junior or senior – he's ever played with. I try to pass along that competitive spirit to my players while making sure that they approach golf like life – to do their best each and every time and, if they lose, to be gracious but with a determination to do better next time. I feel I am blessed. Since turning 50, I have accomplished so much."
And, boy, has she accomplished a lot. Through 1998 (remember her career was still in full blossom at the end of the 20th Century), Joan Edwards-Powell enjoyed an unrivaled list of honors, awards and golf titles. Adding luster to the victories listed earlier, she was the oldest Oregon Women's Amateur champion in history, a finalist for the Bill Hayward Amateur Athlete of the Year (Oregon's highest athletic award), Portland City Champion, Oregon's first-ever woman 4-A boys' golf coach, and five-time women's club champion of Astoria Golf & Country Club.
She has twice represented Oregon in the USGA Women's State Team Championship, and is a four-time winner of the Albertsons/PayLess $50,000 Tournament of Champions Team Championship. (This event involves a pro, a male amateur and a female amateur, with each entrant playing a match against their opposites and the pro getting the money. Edwards-Powell also won once with Jerry Mowlds and was a runner-up with Astoria's head pro, Mike Gove.) Other Edwards-Powell titles include Multnomah Athletic Club champion; she's a record-setting nine-time winner of the Oregon Coast Invitational. Edwards-Powell said, "I used to play women my own age, then I was playing women half my age. Now [at over 50], I'm playing girls one-third my age. Not bad for my 'golden' years."
As a skilled player, Advance Placement English teacher and high school golf coach, Joan's perspective of life and golf is worthy of emulation by the members of her Westview team. She sums up her remarkable career: "I have so many wonderful memories and, as the song goes, 'I'm still here.' I guess if I were asked for the best memory it would be the 1995 year. First, I'm named the boys' golf coach at Westview, then I win the Oregon Amateur at age 50 – no less with my daughter as my caddie and my husband in the gallery... PNGA runner-up... PNGA Senior Women's Amateur champion... chosen for the three-woman USGA team from Oregon... and Bill Hayward finalist. It was a very good year."
Just one in the outstanding amateur golf career of Joan Edwards-Powell.