Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project
Des Moines Register
Induced into Des Moines Register's Hall of Fame
The golfing Saga of Ann CASEY JOHNSONE started in Mason City about 1935 when she was 13 and "put to work" by her mother, the late Regina D. CASEY.
"My father didn't play golf, but mother was pretty good," says JOHNSTONE, 55, now of Columbia, Mo. "I started caddying for her, then started hitting a few balls."
A few months later, JOHNSTONE got the only set of women's clubs she has ever owned. A few years later, in 1941, she won the first of six Iowa Women's Amateur titles.
That's not bad, being a record number, which has since been tied by Corkey NYDLE of Ottumwa. But Ann CASEY's fame and success spread far beyond state borders.
During a tremendous 1957 campaign, she was a finalist in four of the nation's major amateur tournaments for women, including the U.S. Amateur. That won her the Dorothy J. MANICE trophy as our nation's No. 1 amateur. On the home front, she was named top Iowa golfer for 1957 -- woman or man, amateur or pro.
JOHNSTONE was selected to the U.S. Curtis Cup team to play against England in 1958, 1960 and 1962. Just last year, Golf Digest named her as one of six outstanding women teaching golf in the nation.
Small wonder that today Ann CASEY JOHNSTONE becomes the eighty-third person, and second woman, to be named to The Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
From this moment on, because wife and husband are integral parts of the tale, let us speak of Mr. and Mrs. JOHNSTONE as Les and Ann.
Let us also speak of how they got together and where they are now, since that is an important part of how the druggist's daughter got the inspiration to rise to national prominence.
"I shot 72, for nine holes the first time I tried," recalls Ann. "A couple of years later, I won the city meet. And I started taking lessons from Les BOLSTEAD."
BOLSTEAD, an outstanding teacher who was also the University of Minnesota golf coach, had a young redhead name of Patty BERG taking lessons, too. She and Ann became fast friends.
"We were playing a tournament in the Chicago area in 1946 and Patty introduced me to the assistant pro at the club," recalls Ann. "A fellow named Les JOHNSTONE."
They were married two years later and Les moved to Mason City to run one of William Bernard CASEY'S drug stores. He applied and was granted reinstatement as an amateur, and still is one.
Hold on now, for this gets complicated.
Ann was graduated from Iowa in 1944 with a degree in physical education. Stephens College was seeking a woman to teach golf.
"At the time I started, you could retain your amateur standing if you had a college degree in P.E." explains Ann. "Later, that rule changed and I was declared a pro."
Les had entered her life by then and in 1948 she left Columbia to return to Mason City as a housewife. Ann also regained her amateur standing, and kept it until 1964. Then . . .
"After 16 years of marriage, I had to turn pro again to put my husband through college," point out Ann, with pride. She returned to Stephens to teach and coach the golf team.
Les went to school for four years and now is a pharmacist at the Missouri Medical Center in Columbia. Recently, he won an area amateur tournament for senior golfers.
Ann runs the college's nine-hole course. Her daughter, now Jeann GRABIAS, once played on the Stephens' team. In 1966, Ann was named "Ladies Professional Golf Teacher of the Year."
She is also the co-author of "Golf -- a Positive Approach," [Addison-Wesley Publishing Company] published in 1975.
OK, Now, let us return to 1948. The couple had two children, including a boy who died before he was two. The golf clubs were idle for a brief spell. Then Ann was back at it.
Ten years after her first state amateur title, she won a second in 1951. She was 5 feet 5 inches, good for about 200 yards off the tee and was rarely out of the fairway.
"I never did consider myself a good putter," she says. "But I didn't waste many shots, either, and generally had the ball in close."
Ann started putting it all together in the mid-1950s and Les and a brother-in-law, Bill MARTIN, tossed out an intriguing idea one day.
"Why don't you try to make the Curtis Cup team?" asked Les, or maybe it was Bill. If she was seeking a challenge, and she must have been, there it was.
"That was my inspiration. I wanted to show I could," she says. And in 1956, Ann became the first (and only) Iowan to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur.
It was match play and she lost in 19 holes to a young tigress from the Pacific Northwest. A year later, the same woman defeated Ann in the 36-hole final, 8 and 6. You might say that Ann knows a lot about JoAnne CARNER GUNDERSON'S burst onto the national scene. GUNDERSON won $103,275 as a pro in 1976.
The funny part of 1957 was that she wound up an excellent season with a sneaking suspicion that she was destined to be El Floppo.
Ann was runnerup in the U.S. meet, the North and South Amateur, Trans-Mississippi and Women's Western -- plus being low amateur in Florida's Jacksonville Open.
"It bothered me that I hadn't won one," admits Ann, who speaks of that campaign as her "bridesmaid year." There are folks who make careers out of coming close.
On the strength of those many good showings, Ann was chosen on the 1958 Curtis Cup team for the matches in Newton, Mass. She played England in 1960 and California in 1962.
"The first Curtis Cup had to be the high point," she says. "Standing there, representing your country, while they play the Star Spangled Banner and God Save The Queen."
The first international competition may have helped in other ways, too. In 1959, she won the Trans-Miss and North and South and shared the Women's International Four-Ball title with Marlene Streit. A list of the more important happenings is below.
It was A good playing career and Ann deserves to be enshrined alongside an earlier heroine, Mrs. Lucile ROBINSON MANN, who was inducted last year.
Ann could shoot unbelievably low rounds. In 1955, she wheeled the back nine at the Davenport Country Club in 30, helped by an eagle and a double eagle.
It tied the lowest known nine-hole mark by a woman at the time. BERG had previously had a 30. Patty, by the way, also introduced Ann to playing with men's clubs.
Ann's playing partners and rivals of those days were the titans of their time: BERG, GUNDERSON, Barbara ROMACK, Louise SUGGS, Peggy KIRK BELL and, yes, Babe DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS.
"I played several matches against Babe and she beat me every time," recalls Ann. "Once I had her a hole down after the first nine, but she pulled it out.
"After the match, she laughed and said, 'Listen, you little pipsqueak, if you think you can beat me, you've got another think coming."
Of the Iowa titles, the first ("because it was the first") and the last were the most meaningful. During the last, in 1959, she set the present record of 296.
"But the reason it was so important was that it was done at Mason City, my home. I'm an Iowan, true and blue."
Mrs. Regina CASEY, the lady who started it all, died one month ago at 88. She had lots of reasons to be proud of her favorite caddie.
1946 -- Runnerup, Iowa Amateur.
1951 -- Winner, Iowa Amateur.
1953 -- Runnerup, Iowa Amateur.
1954 -- Medalist and winner, Iowa Amateur.
1955 -- Winner, Iowa Amateur.
1956 -- Winner, Palm Beach Invitational; semifinalist, U.S. Women's Amateur.
1957 -- Iowa Golfer of the Year; runnerup, U.S. Women's Amateur; runnerup, Trans-Mississippi Amateur; runnerup, Women's Western Amateur; low amateur in Jacksonville Open; winner, Iowa Amateur.
1958 -- Member of U.S. Curtis Cup team; Winner of D.J. Manoce Award as "Outstanding Amateur Golfer;" low amateur, Women's All-American Open.
1959 -- Winner, Trans-Mississippi; winner, North and South Amateur; co-winner with Marlene Streit, Women's International four-Ball championship; low amateur, Women's All-American Open; winner, Iowa Amateur; runnerup, Palm Beach Invitational.
1960 -- Member of U.S. Curtis Cup Team; winner, Women's Western Amateur; semifinalist, U.S. Women's Amateur; semifinalist, French Open.
1961 -- Runnerup with Marlene Streit, Women's International Four-Ball championship.
1962 -- Member of U.S. Curtis Cup team; semifinalist, Women's Western Amateur; runnerup, Trans-Mississippi; co-winner with Deane Berman, National Mixed Two-Ball championship; runnerup, Palm Beach Invitational.
1963 -- Winner, Iowa Husband and Wife championship
1966 -- LPGA National Teacher of the Year Award
Ann CASEY JOHNSTONE was officially inducted into the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Teaching & Club Professional (T&CP) Master Professional Hall of Fame, the 11th inductee, in 2004. The ceremony was cancelled due to hurricanes.
Now a resident of Southern Pines, JOHNSTONE, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, has received numerous awards and was named winner of the Ellen GRIFFIN Rolex Award in 1996. She was also named Iowa Golfer of the Year in 1957, winner of the D. J. MANICE Award as Outstanding Amateur in 1958, inducted into the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.
Golfing legends and LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame members Peggy KIRK-BELL, Betty HICKS, Marilynn SMITH and Shirley SPORK attended and welcomed JOHNSTONE and S. Annette THOMPSON (the 12th inductee) into the elite Hall of Fame circle on July 24, 2006.
Although only formed in 2000, the LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame criteria is extremely strict and its members represent the best women teachers and club professionals in the game of golf.
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