Elgin Golferettes celebrate 70 years of golf, laughter and friendship
Although the world-renowned Elgin National Watch Company ended production over a half century ago, one aspect of this iconic company remains as strong as ever.
The Elgin Golferettes, begun for women employees at the factory, recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. It's a group that's unique because of its longevity, but also because the majority of the founding members had never played golf before.
While the factory offered a women's bowling league, its golf league was the first for this sport. To prepare them, the women sought advice from the golf pro at the Elgin Country Club. Still others asked for help from members of the factory's men's leagues.
The upstart group, dubbing themselves "The Whackers," headed out to Villa Olivia Country Club in Bartlett for their first outing in May 1951.
"It was a disaster," said one woman in a scrapbook maintained by the club.
Scores of 90 were not uncommon. Over time their performances improved, with some taking more than 20 strokes off their game.
When the factory closed in the 1960s, the members chose to remain together and renamed themselves "The Elgin Golferettes." Friendships begun at the factory continued and membership was opened to those in other walks of life.
Today the group boasts some members who have been with the league for more than 30 years and one for more than 40 years.
The league thrives on year-round events, with some members playing more than the 18-week schedule.
"Some enjoy fall golf, and all look forward to the holiday party in December," said longtime member Sue McIntyre. "The group has donated to local charities and many golf fundraising events."
The club has maintained over five scrapbooks of its history. In 2018 it was honored by Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain and the Elgin Heritage Commission with a Mayor's Legacy Award. The award paid tribute to the group's "68 years as a women's athletic organization promoting teamwork and community pride while honoring our history."
The women also had a commemorative bench inscribed with the words "Elgin Golferettes -- Years of laughter and friendship" placed in their honor at the Randall Oaks Golf Club in West Dundee in 2015.
The message on the bench -- the course's first -- capsulizes how all feel about being part of the team, McIntyre added.
Jen Weinsten, who began subbing with the group in 2019 and is now a regular member, added the league was a silver lining to the COVID year.
"This is an incredible group of women with an amazing history and legacy," Weinsten said. "I have been part of many ladies' leagues over the years, and this has been one of the best golfing experiences."