Pictured: Clippings about Jenny Weiss in a Women’s Michigan Golf Association scrapbook in archives of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame at Ferris State University
100 Years, A GAM Special Series: This is the third of 10 stories leading up to the 100th Michigan Women’s Amateur, Aug. 8-12, at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden.
Jenny Barclay, who became Jenny Weiss or Mrs. Donald D. Weiss of Flint Golf Club and the second five-time state champion in the record books, is one of three golfers who have claimed five or more titles in what has become the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship.
What sets her apart is that she first won in 1936, and added her fifth title 21 years later in 1957 when at age 46 she set the standard as the oldest winner of the championship.
In all, she played 30 tournaments starting in 1932 at Gull Lake Country Club and closing out in 1963 at Western Golf and Country Club where she qualified for match play yet again and lost in the first round.
She was just 21 that first time at Gull Lake, and her younger brother Bill came along to caddie according to records that former Detroit News writer John Walter gave to Alleen Sell for her history of the Women’s Michigan Golf Association.
As Walter told it, in the first round of match play she came up in the draw against Lucille Desenberg of Kalamazoo. She was new to tournament golf, and knew little of Desenberg who had won consecutive titles in 1917, ’18 and ’19 and then a fourth in 1921, but was a decade removed from her dominance of the state championship.
Jenny asked her brother about Lucille’s abilities, and young Bill, apparently unaware of golfers from the West side of Michigan, replied: “She can’t be so good – I’ve never heard of her.” Jenny went on to upset Desenberg while not realizing the significance of her accomplishment.
In the second round, she drew Dorothy Higbie of Country Club of Detroit, who had won in 1931 for her third state title and would go on to be the first five-time winner. Jenny and Bill had heard of Dorothy, and Dorothy avoided the upset. She beat Weiss in the match, won the title and added another state championship in 1933.
Jenny kept coming to the championship though, and was qualifying medalist in 1935 before falling in the semifinals to the champion Ellen Hess. Her first win was in 1936 at Detroit Country Club. She bested 83 entries, topping Virginia Paddock, who was a host club member, 2 and 1 in the championship match.
She lost in the semifinals the next two years, but won her second in 1939 beating Marjorie Row of Meadowbrook Country Club in the title match at Meadowbrook. That win was the first of three consecutive. Her 1940 and ’41 wins both were closed with title match wins Margaret Russell of Oakland Hills.
The fifth came in ’57 at Orchard Lake Country Club. Jenny beat Margaret Watkins of Country Club of Detroit in the final.
“Jenny Weiss has a fabulous record in women’s state golf competition,” Walter wrote. “She won a total of 39 matches in state competition, and eight times it has taken the (eventual champion) to sideline her. She failed to qualify for (match play) one time in 1951 when she missed by one stroke at Franklin Hills Country Club. She was medalist in 1935 and again in 1952.”
Weiss, who is in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship five times and was the first Flint area golfer to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open.
World War II interrupted Weiss and the tournament as it did most golf tournaments of the time. At an April 29, 1943 meeting the WMGA opted to discontinue the championship for the duration of the war and no tournament was presented in ’43, ’44 or ‘45. History clearly shows golf and several other athletic events were put on the backburner as citizens united in the war effort.
Sell wrote in her history account: “In 1946, the lights came on again all over the world following World War II.”
The championship was back on, too. Detroit Golf Club hosted the 1946 tournament with 108 entrants, and Sally Sessions of Muskegon defeated Mary Agnes Wall of Menominee 5 and 4 in a 36-hole final match. Championship matches of 36 holes were the norm into the1960s when format changes were voted in and included an 18-hole final.