Edean Anderson Ihlanfeldt, the 1982 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, died on April 27 at the age of 90 in her adopted hometown of Wenatchee, Wash. Ihlanfeldt was a legendary golf figure in the Pacific Northwest, competing against the likes of eight-time USGA champion JoAnne Gunderson Carner, seven-time USGA champion Anne Quast Sander, 1950 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Pat (Lesser) Harbottle and Ruth Jessen.
In 1974, Ihlanfeldt founded the women’s golf program at the University of Washington and coached the team for eight years without taking a paycheck. Instead, she put the money from any salary back into the program, which earned three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national team postseason berths in her tenure as well as five individual qualifiers. Washington has gone on to produce several prominent players through the years, including Curtis Cup competitors Paige Mackenzie and Charlotte Thomas, and won the NCAA championship in 2016.
Ihlanfeldt’s legacy at the university carries on through an annual fall tournament in her name at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish. The low qualifying scorer in the annual Seattle City Women’s Amateur Championship also receives a trophy named for Ihlanfeldt, who won that event five times.
In addition to her 1982 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur title, Ihlanfeldt captured five Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) Women’s Amateurs, six Montana Women’s Amateurs and four Washington State Women’s Amateurs.
In 1962, she claimed the PNGA “grand slam” by defeating Gunderson for her fourth Seattle City Women’s title, then winning PNGA Women’s Amateur and Washington State Women’s Amateur. It’s a feat that has not been duplicated.
“I cannot begin to describe how larger than life Edean was,” said current Washington women’s golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur, who played for Ihlanfeldt before beginning her 37-year tenure at UW. “I had the great privilege to play for her in the early years of Washington golf. She displayed a passion for golf, people and laughter that was beyond measure. Oh, how we all loved her laughter! She was a mentor to me up until shortly before she passed away. The lessons she taught me, and countless other Husky golfers are immeasurable.”
Golf came naturally to Edean Anderson, who was born on April 13, 1930, in Helena, Mont. Spurred by a promise from her father, an automobile dealer, she became determined to win a state title to earn a new convertible. Under the tutelage of local professional Bill Roberts, Anderson captured the first of six consecutive Montana Women’s Amateurs at age 14, though she was still too young to drive.
In 1949, she traveled to Corvallis, Ore., to attend Oregon State, decades before colleges fielded women’s golf teams. On campus, she met future Curtis Cup (1952) player Grace DeMoss, and the two would remain friends and rivals for the rest of their lives.
Also in 1949, Anderson defeated Alice Bauer in the final to claim her first PNGA Women’s Amateur titles. She won on more prominent stages as well, capturing the 1952 Canadian Women’s Amateur and the 1953 Women’s Trans-Mississippi Championship.Although she briefly considered turning professional, Anderson’s life changed in 1954 when she met Robert Ihlanfeldt at a golf tournament. The courtship lasted just two months and before long they were married and living in Seattle.
“I made the best decision of my life,” she said in her PNGA Hall of Fame bio. “I got married.”
While family commitments kept her away from tournaments for several years, Ihlanfeldt returned to competitive golf in a big way in 1962 with her sweep of major Washington events.
One key item was missing from her championship portfolio: a USGA title. In 1981, in her first attempt, she led the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at Spring Lake (N.J.) Golf Club after one round of the 54-hole, stroke-play event. She faded to an eighth-place finish, however, and realized she needed to work on her mental approach, according to the PNGA website.
She returned home and redoubled her efforts, and it paid off in 1982 at Kissing Camels Golf Club, in Colorado Springs, Colo., when she posted a four-stroke victory over Mary Ann Morrison. The Senior Women’s Amateur became a match-play competition in 1997.
“I never won a national tournament like this,” Ihlanfeldt said after hoisting the trophy. “I don't know how long you stay on cloud nine, but I am still there.”
Besides starting the UW women’s program, Ihlanfeldt also served on various USGA committees and was instrumental in bringing the 1974 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1996 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur to Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle.
In 1985, Ihlanfeldt was inducted into the PNGA Hall of Fame and four years later she was inducted into the University of Washington Hall of Fame.
Ihlanfeldt’s husband passed away in 1993. Her daughter, Sue, is a two-time club champion at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore, Wash., where Edean earned low-amateur honors in the LPGA Tour’s Valhalla Open in 1964.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.