Juniper Hill Ladies Golf – How it began….
Buck Blankenship built the Juniper Hill (JH) Golf Course and it first opened on May 1, 1957. Mr. Blankenship was the golf pro for a few years thereafter. It is believed that sometime in the early 1960s several ladies began playing golf at Juniper Hill Golf Course; however, there are very few records of those early years and many of the early ladies have since passed away. This brief history is our best guess of how the ladies golf program began at Juniper Hill Golf Course. The information was obtained from interviews with some of the early ladies who participated and from old scrapbooks from the City of Frankfort.
In the early 1960s, the JH Ladies Day Wednesday group began playing with around ten or so active members. It is believed that the original group included Jeannette Rosenstein, Dorothy Heilman, Christine Yount, Anne Coleman North, Mary Lou Sorg, Lee Sorg, Betty Hogg Berger, Verna Johnson, Barbara Morris, Jane Barbour, Joann Waits, Bee Spicer, Virginia Luscher, and Merrilyn Penegor. Several of the ladies also played a nine-hole game on Friday, followed by a potluck dinner in the clubhouse where they were accompanied by their husbands. Over the years, the group, now known as the Wednesday Ladies Day Golf League, has grown considerably and has around 70 active members.
Ernie Sampson became the Juniper Hill golf pro on April 30, 1965, and worked for 13 years resigning in March, 1978. The City of Frankfort then hired Gene Hilen as the new pro who worked at Juniper until his death on February 16, 2004.
During Gene’s tenure at Juniper, the Late Swingers “night” ladies league began in the early 1980s. The league originally had around twelve members that included Dollie Wilson, Billie Abbott, Anne Hilen, Shirley Wilhoite, June Stokley, Joyce Sisk, and Joyce Wilhoite, to name a few. Today, the Late Swingers have a membership of approximately 100 ladies.
Gene is remembered as being an excellent teacher who worked tirelessly with the youth and women in promoting golf at Juniper Hill. In 1981, Pat Cole was President of the Frankfort Welcome Wagon and as one of the activities for the Welcome Wagon she was part of the telephone wives of Frankfort. Through this association she identified the desire of local women wanting to learn the game and to play golf. Some of the ladies Pat connected with began hitting balls at the old driving range on Old Lawrenceburg Road down by the river. The group became known as the New Comer’s Club. Original members included Pat Cole, Trish Tyler, Norma Wigglesworth and Patty West, just to name a few. Pat soon realized that the ladies needed help with their game, so she approached Gene Hilen to work with the ladies and provide some instruction. Gene began ladies golf clinics, and Pat Cole collected money for him. Soon thereafter, Pat began working for Gene at Juniper Hill and stayed for 17 years before retiring and moving to western Kentucky with her husband Bobby.
In 1983, Gene Hilen moved the golf clinics to Juniper Hill Golf Course and continued to work with teaching the ladies the game of golf. Originally, Gene began with a six-week course to teach the ladies all phases of golf and charged $25 for the course. However, the ladies still weren’t ready to play either 9 or 18 holes of golf and there wasn’t a par 3 course or Executive Course in Frankfort at that time. Pat Cole recommended to Gene that he consider a 4-hole group and Gene agreed to try the concept. With the help of Bobby Cole, Pat’s husband, the course was shortened and Bobby made yellow tee markers for the “4-holers”.
The “4-holers” started on Hole 1 by the “big tree”. Sometimes there were nearly 40 ladies waiting their turn to “tee off”. While waiting, ladies were instructed on golf rules, fast play, and being honest in score keeping. One of the new local rules instituted for the “4-holers” was a 10-stroke rule – once you hit your ball 10 times, you would pick up and have a ‘circle 10’ on your scorecard and move on to the next hole. This rule was created to speed up play for the beginner golfers. Eventually one of the ladies invented little beads totaling 10 that hung on a shoestring that you could tie on your waist to count your shots. You would move the beads after each shot to help count your score.
Ladies remained in the “4-holers” until they were able to reach a specific proficiency to move up to the C group, then to the B group and on to the A group if applicable. The basic concept was for players to play against ladies of their own ability, which gave them a better playing field to win prizes and improve their game. The Late Swingers started with a group of 15 to 20 ladies in 1981 and by 1998 had grown to nearly 300 ladies playing in the A, B, C, and 4-Holer groups.
The Late Swingers offered working women and high school girls a time and place to play golf after work or school, which was ground breaking for a public golf course to allow women a night a week for a league. The creation of the ladies league didn’t go without its struggles, but eventually through the support of Gene Hilen and Pat Cole, the Frankfort City Commission began to recognize the enthusiasm the women brought to the game of golf and the increase in revenue through green and cart fees for the City of Frankfort. Additionally, the Juniper Hill Men’s Association also began forming an alliance with the ladies through their assistance with the Governor’s Open golf tournament held annually at Juniper Hill by providing food for a cocktail reception on Friday evening of the tournament. Today, the Juniper Hill ladies provide invaluable volunteer services for the three-day event and also famous “home-made desserts” for the 200+ golf pros and participants.
In the early years, there wasn’t a lot of money for prizes at the end of the year, but the league had big banquets – many were held at the former Saylor’s Restaurant on Louisville Road, who closed the restaurant for the Late Swingers banquet event. Eventually, the Late Swingers were able to secure a sponsor, L.T. West, Liberty Bell Telephone, who remained a sponsor for several years. Picture frames were used as prizes and the trophy shop engraved winner’s names on them for the ladies, and the ladies also received a small gift certificate from the pro shop.
The Late Swingers’ league championship was held on two Thursday nights, which made it an 18-hole tournament. The last night of league play the ladies had a “Sheamble” tournament where each lady drove the ball, hit a 2nd shot, a chip shot and a putt until they were in the hole. The premise of this format was to make the “Sheamble” fair for all teams by minimizing the long hitters from dominating the game. Most teams had six players and a special score card was created to indicate whose shot was used where.
During the tenure of ladies golf at Juniper, there were many awards presented to the ladies for their accomplishments. In the early years, there was a Jeanette B. Rosenstein Award for the low-net round of the Ladies Club Championship. After the tragic death of Anne Coleman North, this award was given to the lady who was 55 or older and had the low-net of the Ladies Club. Other awards in the early years included the Margaret Howard Putting Award that was sponsored by Sam Rosenstein, and the Patty West award for the Most Improved Golfer for the Late Swingers that was sponsored by L.T. West, Patty’s husband.
In 2012, we recognize awards for:
It is believed that the first Juniper Hill Ladies Club Championship was held in 1983 when Pam Dickerson dominated the tournament with five titles before Ann French Thomas upset her run as Champion in 1988. Pam bounced back in 1989 and won one additional championship. Other ladies who have won championships to date, include: Angie Tyler, Lesa Kerns Hodge, Jessica Kell, Jennifer Sullivan, Elaine Butler, Mandy Goins, Tara Taylor Purvis, and Megan Kinney. (A complete list of winners can be found at this web page under “Ladies Club Championship” tab.)
The Juniper Hill Ladies Club Championship was originally sponsored by Chenault and Hoge Insurance Company and included ladies from both the Wednesday Day and Thursday night Late Swingers. Initially, the Club Championship was held at 1 PM on Saturday and Sunday after the men and eventually the ladies were given the opportunity to play their tournament at 7 AM on Saturday and Sunday as the men did. The ladies played the tournament in rain, fog and cold weather conditions. The 4-holers played nine holes each day from the “yellow markers”, which were shortened for them.
For those ladies who can remember, it wasn’t the Ladies Club without hearing Gene Hilen take the microphone from the Juniper Hill pro shop and sing “Amazing Grace” around 9 AM on Sunday morning. Gene was an instrumental part of promoting youth and women’s golf at Juniper Hill. After Gene’s death, Kirk Schooley became the golf pro and has continued to support and promote women’s golf at Juniper Hill.
Through the years, many Kentucky golf pros and clubs have tried to emulate the success of Juniper Hill Golf course by creating women’s leagues of their own. It is believed that Juniper Hill has the largest ladies league in the state of Kentucky and has now created the Juniper Hill Ladies Golf Club (JHLGC), which includes members of both the Wednesday Ladies Day Golf League and the Thursday Night Late Swingers.
Juniper Hill Golf Course
800 Louisville Road
Frankfort, KY 40601
Pro Shop: (502) 875-8559
As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round. ~ Ben Hogan