The following is from an article originally written by Betty Hansen of Sugarbush in 2002 for the Tri-States 50th Anniversary.
For fifty years, women from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine have maintained a rivalry – a golf rivalry, and a friendly one at that. For fifty years they have fielded teams and waged their friendly competitions at different golf courses throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and always during the third week of June.
It all started in 1952 when Ruth Raymond Jones, the “great lady” of Vermont Women’s golf, fondly nicknamed “Jonesie”, realized one of her many golfing dreams: to have an annual team competition among the three states. Together with interested women golfers in her own state, Maine, and New Hampshire, the first Tri-State Tournament was planned and staged in Maine.
Mr. Harold Peart, a prominent businessman and owner of Sprague and Carleton, furniture manufacturers in Keene, NH, donated the original trophy in 1952. It was a large silver loving cup called the Peart Trophy. Mr. Peart was a great supporter of women’s golf in New Hampshire and his wife, Nemo Peart, played on the original New Hampshire Tri-State Team.
Although early records of the Tri-State Tournament series are almost non-existent, we do know that the first tournament was won by the Vermont women.
In addition to “Jonesie”, the founder of the Vermont Women’s Golf Association, early participants were Betsy Weston of Claremont, NH and Polly Merritt of Rutland, formerly of New Hampshire. Betsy and Polly played for New Hampshire in the early years, but up until 1991, they had played on the Vermont team for twenty-four consecutive years. (Betsy has been a Vermont State Champion and a Seniors Champion in the past). In addition to Polly and Betsy, other team members in those early years were Marion Benham, Mae Murray Jones, Olive Miller, Tessie Woods, Marion Shattuck, and Hilly Finn, to name only a few.
Having run out of space to engrave any more state names after thirty years of Tri-State Tournaments, the original Peart trophy was retired in 1982 to the Keene Country Club in New Hampshire where it originated. It is on display there today. Now, there is a new “trophy plaque” to take its place and it goes home for the year with the winning state team.
Tri-States has been a one-day tournament with a practice round played the day before. On the day of tournament play, threesomes are made up of one team member from each of the three states. The format is a Match Play Nassau – hole by hole – with one point given for each nine holes won, one point for the eighteen holes won, and a half point fora tie on nine or eighteen holes. Each player is playing against the two opposing team members in the threesome. The maximum number of points a competitor can win is six. In 2002, a second round of competition was added with modified alternate shot competition on the first day of play.
Originally, there was only one division consisting of twelve regular team members and six alternates. They played at scratch – no handicaps. The quality of play has always been very high. In fact, in 1975, Mary McNeill set an unofficial (because it was match play) course record at Orleans while playing on the Vermont Tri-State team.
Over the years, the A, B, and C division system has evolved. Each state had an A division with seven members (0.0 – 12.9 handicaps); B division had ten players (13.0 – 22.9 handicaps), and C division (23.0-30.0 handicaps). There were six alternates per state. On the day of the tournament play, the alternates played a low gross/net tournament among themselves.
Players for the Tri-State competition are chosen for the team based on level of play, individual handicaps and past participation in previous tournaments. The Tri-State Tournament has been held consecutively for forty-nine years (up through 2001). During that time, Vermont women have won the trophy fifteen times. Maine has won twelve times, and New Hampshire has won twenty-two events.
New Hampshire has always been Vermont’s most formidable opponent. There are many more women golfers in New Hampshire; therefore, New Hampshire has greater depth from which to choose their team. There have been many attempts over the years to even out the three teams.
At times, A division played at scratch, B division played at a percentage of individual handicaps, and C division played utilizing entire handicaps. This system comes up for regular review. New Hampshire, being the strongest team and the one to give the most strokes, would prefer to play at scratch with handicaps not being relevant. But for the past years, Vermont and Maine have prevailed and the tournament has been played using the total handicap system.
In recent years, Vermont’s team has included players such as Mickie LaCroix, Cindy Paquet, Marilyn Hamilton Patton, Marge Muhonen, Joe Ann Richardson, Pat Job, and Ruth Weigand. All of these women have participated in at least eight tournaments and as many as sixteen.
It is very easy to spot team players from a distance as each state has it’s own colors. Vermont wears burgundy and beige, New Hampshire is attired in green and white, and Maine in navy blue and white.
In addition to the serious aspect of the Tri-State Tournament – the goal of winning – there also exists something intangible, and very important for the participants. It is the camaraderie, friendship, and good times that have been established over the years among the players. Betsy Weston chaired the tournament in the late 60s. “For me the best part of Tri-States are the friendships I’ve made and playing with and against people I’ve known for a long time. But I preferred that the tournament be played with no strokes.”
Mary Emans, frequent Women’s Club Champion at Woodstock Country Club, is another “great lady” of Vermont Women’s Golf. She was Vermont Chairman of Tri-State for more than 12 years. Mary said recently, “For me, those 12 years most surely added another facet to the pleasure of the game. It was great fun to share a common ground with women of such varying backgrounds and ages. Most of them had a genuine devotion to the game, were very interested in each other’s equipment and home courses, and most surely were competitive! And the later trait elicited some very fine golf, record breaking from time to time. Quite a few players have turned professional, like Jane Blalock and Donna Caponi.” (Pat Bradley, Tina Tombs, Holly Reynolds and others have also gone one to play professionally.)
Mary Emans has spent a great deal of time perpetuating the spirit and enthusiasm of the tournament. “Each state has been so very proud to win the trophy – it is a great feeling to be captain, watching the points add to the victory. And a great feeling too is to play the final hole with your teammates surrounding the green, pulling for you to make the putt.” In 1987, in recognition of her outstanding efforts and dedication to the success of the Tri-States Tournament, New Hampshire made Mary Emans an honorary member of the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association.
Mary has many stories to relate about the early years of the Tri-State Tournaments. For example, she tells of the time Tessie Woods of Springfield was heading for a New Hampshire course and missed the turn, winding up in Maine. In 1979, when the Tournament was held at Wentworth-By-The-Sea in New Hampshire, the mosquitoes were so fierce that cans of bug spray were chained to ball washers on each tee, resulting in some very mosquito-bitten team members (New Hampshire won that year!). In 1976, when the tournament was played in Kearsage, New Hampshire (now the Country Club of New Hampshire), all the competitors were lodged in one motel – five women to a room. There were no screens, no air conditioning, the banquet was held in a roadhouse, and the entire area was a mosquito-ridden swamp (New Hampshire was that year too!).
Mary Emans sums up her feelings about Tri-State by saying, “I loved the opportunities to meet so many of my fellow Vermont women golfers, to play so many other courses in New Hampshire and Maine, to compete against those who had become old friends over the years, and to share wild victories and heartbreaking defeats. What else could it have been but wonderful?”
In addition to the day of play, there is always a pleasant evening spent with all the team members. The host state organizes a cocktail part and banquet. Seating is arranged according to the threesomes who will be competing the next day, thereby “breaking the ice” before confronting each other on the first tee in the morning.
Even “getting there is half the fun”. Carpooling, especially in vans, is always a treat. A trip out-of-state can provide the time for a game of bridge or just pleasant conversation.
Participating in the 50th anniversary of Tri-States at Rutland Country Club in Vermont this year (2002) will be a special honor. All players will recognize and appreciate the rich tradition of such an outstanding regional tournament.