The Women's District Golf Association enters its 56th year with 498 members from 28 clubs and a new president determined to make the organization a greater force on the local sports scene.
"So far, the presidency has been the easiest job I've had," said Ruth Ann Verell of Belle Haven, a past treasurer, secretary ano first vice president of the WDGA.
"Everything has been going so smoothly I'm afraid I've been neglecting something. I keep telling myself with tongue in cheek that the bubble will burst some day. But everything goes well and I suppose all the blame if it doesn't."
The things that seem to be going well include the WDGA's junior program and a slate of competition that begins May 9 and includes some new wrinkles.
Member clubs must be within a 25-mile radius of the District.
It is not easy for women to play golf in this area. As it is in other parts of the country, most courses here limit the starting times of women. At the majority of local clubs it is difficult for women to tee off between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. On weekends, women normally are kept off the course entirely before 1 p.m.
Among exceptions are Indian Spring, which offers unlimited memberships to women, and Bethesda and Kenwood which also allow single memberships, with only a few restrictions.
Verell minimizes the difficulties for women golfers.
"We have absolutely no problems with the men," she said. "We rarely have to make any changes in our schedule. The courses have been extremely fair.We have absolutely no complaints, and we think it's great that we've been given the opportunity to play the various courses."
"We have had tremendous cooperation out of the pro shops. We are in golf the fun we get out of it. We are not competing with the men. The success of our association for more than 50 years speaks for itself."
The organization's junior program is a source of much WDGA pride.
"Tina Marlowe, daughter of Tony Marlowe, the Woodmont pro, is in charge of our junior program," said Verell, "and what a job Tina has done.
I feel strongly about junior golf tournaments. It's more difficult to get a young girls interested in junior golf than tennis.
"Our junior program has borne fruit. Out of it came Vikki Staton, whose family was a resident member of Belle Haven until recently. Vikki became one of the top women players in the area. There was, of course, Sally Voss (current woman star of the area) and also recall the Jordan sisters, Michele and Lene, of Army Navy."
Women's competition starts with the traditional Keefer Cup at Chevy Chase May 9-10. After that will come 22 WDGA-sponsored events. The team matches start April 24. These events do not include the various championships sponsored by the Men's District, the middle Atlantic and the Maryland State Golf associations.
"But we're looking forward to a brand-new tournament sponsored by Ann Heuer, our former president," said Verell. "The initial tournament will be held at Heuer's home club, Congressional, on Oct. 9 and is called The Tournament of Champions. It is limited to players with handicaps of eight and under and will include all champions of our various events."
The women are sticklers for fairness. For instance:
"We rate our own courses," says Verell. "We work at it in order to make handicaps more equitable. We found, for example, that the low handicaps of the women who belonged to Brooke Manor in Rockville were not consistent with their performances. Most of the Brooke Manor women didn't do well in our net tornaments.
"So we went out ourselves to Brooke Manor. We found the course is nonwatered (no sprinkling sytem) and the ball there gets a lot more roll resulting in lower scores and lower handicaps. So we made the necessary adjustments."
Virtually all of the WDGA tournaments are net affairs to give everybody a chance. The team matches used to be head to head without strokes. There are six divisions of team play but the WDGA insists only those players who have handicaps of 22 and under may be in competition.
The WDGA seldom has players of national caliber. An exception is 20 year-old Voss, of Congressional, who last year won the Women's District Championship and the Maryland State Women's Amateur. Voss is a pre-med student at Stanford and while on the Pacific Coast last summer won the San Francisco women's title.
"I do not think that this summer will be Sally's final turn around the circuit," said Verell. "I think Sally could compete on the national level and even on the LPGA tour. But I get the impression that golf is her avocation. She has indicated her true vocation is medicine. She has been a delight to have here with us."
The lowest handicap among the play-for-fun members belongs to Carol Davies of Washingtonian. She carries a five.
Arlene English of the same club and Nancy Hollenbeck of Army Navy both have sevens; Verell has an eight.