1990-1999 #GAM100 – In Michigan’s Golf History, Jeanne Myers Rules
Editor’s note: This is the eighth of a 10-part series celebrating the Golf Association of Michigan’s 100th year of service to the game. #GAM100
by Greg Johnson
FARMINGTON HILLS – Jeanne Myers was 32, a housewife and mother of three children when she found golf.
“My husband, who I later divorced, was traveling a lot back then and wanted to play golf, and I figured if I wanted to see him, I had to take up the game,” she said. “He gave me a 5-iron and directed me to a driving range.”
Myers, who celebrated her 80th birthday in April, hit a lot of golf balls while the kids were in school, then took lessons and by 1980 was an avid golfer playing four days each week, and had joined the Women’s District Golf Association (WDGA) of Detroit and the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) through membership at Oakland Hills Country Club.
“Between 1980 and ’84 I played a lot,” she said. “And then I won the club championship in 1984. I had become a pretty good player, but I had also become interested in the rules. I got a bad ruling in a tournament one time, and I went home and read the rule book instead of just getting mad.”
Myers got even – even more involved in golf, first with the Women’s District, which like the GAM is celebrating 100 years in 2019. The GAM started as the District Golf Association of Detroit for men at the same time the Women’s District was started.
She eventually became president of the WDGA, started volunteering for the USGA as a result and was asked by a USGA representative to learn course rating.
“Michigan was one of the first states to go on the Slope Rating System, so I was asked to learn how to rate golf courses for the Women’s District in 1983 and ’84 in preparation for going on Slope in 1985,” she said. “Then in ’85 the USGA called me and asked me to go to Seattle for an annual meeting and talk to others about going on Slope and I was appointed to the USGA Women’s Handicap Procedure Committee.”
Myers, well-schooled in the handicap procedure, decided then to carry through on her interest in the rules and took the USGA rules test in 1986.
“I never joined anything without the thought that I’m going to do this and I’m going to lead this group one day,” she said. “I also realized after one USGA meeting that nobody did anything without becoming a rules official. I was already interested, so I became a rules official.”
She went knocking on the door of then-GAM Executive Director Jeff Rivard in 1986 and started working GAM championships doing the rules. She wrote a letter to the Michigan Section of the PGA, which also immediately worked her into its rules officials group for the next 10 years.
Rivard said recently he was elated that Myers came along during his tenure.
“She was a player, she knew the rules, she knew the USGA, she was perfect to be the first woman to deal with what had to that point in history been a male organization of private golf clubs,” he said. “Jeanne Myers changed that. Betty Richart, who came from the USGA side, helped change that. Sara Wold, too, but Jeanne could do it all. She knew every phase of it and nothing phased her is the way I would put it.”
Rivard urged Myers to fully embrace the GAM beyond being a volunteer rules official and course rater. In 1991 Myers and Kathy Heriford, a leader on the women’s public side of Detroit area golf, became the first female GAM governors. Myers continued the march to first female board member, first female officer, and in 2005 the first female president of the GAM.
“I had gone through the officer positions and had to put off my year as president because I was chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee in 2003 and 2004 and was traveling all over and doing rules at USGA national championships,” she said. “Finally, I served my year as president for the GAM.”
Sara Wold of Ann Arbor served as the GAM’s second woman president in 2018. She said Myers was truly a pioneer for women’s golf in the state.
“She helped make a bunch of men realize that women were playing golf, and that if they wanted their game and clubs to survive, they had to include the women,” Wold said. “She inspired a lot of others to do the same.”
Myers was divorced in 2005 and dropped the volunteer status with the GAM by becoming an assistant tournament director in 2006 to Ken Hartmann, who is currently the senior director of rules and competitions for the GAM.
“I did that for seven years, and then I had the opportunity to get back into course rating,” she said. “I was 70, and course rating was an easier thing that running tournaments. I did that and retired at the end of 2017, though I’ve been back working part-time the last two years for the GAM. I’m really done. This September I’m done for the third time I guess.”
Myers said she doesn’t have the desire to learn the rules again, especially since the old number system has changed as the most significant set of rules changes in years came into play in 2019.
“I not sure what I will do but doubt I will play more because I haven’t played that much in the last several years,” she said. “It hurts too much the next day.”
Over the years she became a local legend at junior, high school and women’s rules clinics. The GAM has a rug with a golf course diagram of sorts and several rules applications denoted to serve as a visual learning tool. Myers and the rug made hundreds of appearances.
“I don’t even know where Ken got that rug,” she said. “The USGA has one, but the GAM rug is way better.”
Hartmann said the rug was at the GAM when he arrived 20 years ago.
“No idea where it came from,” he said. “I just know Jeanne used it, and she taught everybody about everything. No one I’ve worked with is more knowledgeable about handicap, about course rating or the rules of golf. She is a great resource. There are none better. When she gets behind something and wants to learn it, she is your go-to.”
Hartmann said Myers never openly pushed a personal or women’s agenda, just forged ahead and filled her roles perfectly.
“I don’t think that women’s golf was her mission,” he said. “She wasn’t trying to pave a way, she just did it, and did it for the game of golf and believed that women belonged in the game the same as men. I think when Betty Richart got her involved with the USGA, Betty kind of presented it as here you are, step up. Jeanne has kept stepping up.”
Hartmann feels her key element for success has been her fairness.
“You can trust her to do it right and do it fair,” he said. “I honestly don’t know anyone else that I have as much trust in regarding the rules as I have in Jeanne. She will get it right.”
Myers, who officiated over 70 USGA championships and authored the Equitable Stroke Control procedure for the USGA, said a rules official is at least half of the time giving really bad news to a player.
“The amateur golfers though are by and large wonderful, pleasant and don’t snarl and snap like some of the pros,” she said. “I’ve always had the greatest respect for amateur golfers. They are playing for fun and the love of the game, and I try to honor that.”
In 2018 she was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the GAM and said it was an honor as special to her as being inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 2006. She said the GAM is moving in the right direction as it celebrates its centennial.
“When I was first there it was all private, all male, and it is certainly neither of those things now,” she said. “Back then it did handicap and tournaments and course rating. Now it has expanded in so many directions to provide services to every golfer, men, women, juniors. Even people who shoot 120 can come enjoy a GAM Golf Day. David Graham has done a great job as executive director, and now that he is retiring, I think the new guy, Chris Whitten, is going to be great. He’s young. He has vision. It’s a game for young people and we need to reach them.”
She insisted she is definitely retired this time but hopes to hang around a while and see where the GAM and golf goes next.
“I know this, the GAM is here to stay. They run great tournaments for everybody, and I love the Youth on Course program, love the Golf Days, love that they added Net tournaments, those were my babies, and honestly those are the real golfers of the world, the firemen, the cops, the people who run grocery stores, the women who have jobs, kids and do it all, and they are people who will golf even if it takes six hours to play.
“They appreciate the game more than anybody else, and I believe the GAM wants to serve them, and can, too.”
#GAM History – Did you know?
In October of 1994 the GAM celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special dinner and program at the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn. Detroit radio legend J.P. McCarthy, an honorary governor of the GAM, was the master of ceremonies for the program that included PGA Champion Dave Marr and Detroit News golf writer Jack Berry. A Player of the Century Award was presented to Chuck Kocsis, who was 81 at the time and still an active member at Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak. A special display honored the 14 original clubs of the association.