Working at home and flexible schedules are two of the many developments generated by the COVID-19 pandemic – and they worked out for the Losantiville Country Club women’s team in this year’s Greater Cincinnati Women’s Golf Association Fall Team competition.

Losantiville, led by team captain Sally Cuni, took the lead in the first week of the five-week Division IV event and never gave it up, winning by seven points with 102 over runnerup O’Bannon Creek Golf Club. The division win was Losantiville’s first in Cuni’s memory.

“The key was we had a lot of new, young female members who are just really great golfers,” Cuni said. “Because of pandemic work schedules, they are a lot more flexible, so we were able to field a team of young, working women who were able to get off work and play. I think that helped us a lot, because we have these young, really good golfers. I love playing alongside them and watching them.”

After a narrow loss last year, the Hamilton Elks Golf Club team took control early this year and ran away to a 109-91.5 win over second-place Wetherington Golf and Country Club in the Division I tournament. Kenwood Country Club bounced back from a second-place finish in Week One to post a 115-98 win over Oasis Golf Club in Division II.

Patty Bracken’s Triple Crown Country Club team needed a tiebreaker to edge Coldstream Country Club at the Division III level. Both teams finished with 98 points, just a half-point ahead of Summit Hills Country Club and three points ahead of Western Hills Country Club.

“What we had to do was go back to when we played Coldstream and look at the overall points from that match,” Bracken said by phone from South Carolina, where she was preparing to play in a tournament. “That match was tied, so then we had to go to how we did on the front nine. We had 9-1/2 points and they had 8-1/2 points.”

Triple Crown went from fifth place to second to fourth to third before prevailing in the fifth and final round, which was played at Triple Crown.

“I never thought we’d finish first,” Bracken said. “We’ve struggled to have women play, but they’re starting to like it more because it’s team, and since it’s handicapped, it’s not so stressful. A couple of the girls played so well on our home course that it took the pressure off me. We had the home course advantage. We parred every hole on the back nine.”

Team captain Lori Roberts’ Hamilton Elks crew grabbed a three-point lead in Week One at Clovernook Country Club and never gave it up.

“What made it so helpful was getting a lead early on,” said Roberts, the GCWGA treasurer. “It gives you a cushion. You never really know if there’s one week when somebody comes out and blows you away. Going into that fifth week, you just want to break even.”

Roberts couldn’t point to any one member of her team who played exceptionally well.

“We have a lot of competitive ladies at the Elks, and we have a really strong women’s golf league there,” she said. “It’s just that everyone wants to win, and they just put out their best effort and did what they could. It was just a desire to get out there. There wasn’t one person who stood out. It was a team effort. Everyone did their parts.”

Losantiville’s team competition experience has been limited, Cuni said.

“We used to play in the spring, but the snowbirds didn’t come back in time, so we had to drop out,” she said. “When we played Fall Team, the first couple of years we moved up. We had some really good golfers and there were no handicaps. Then they changed the rules. This is the first time under the handicap system that we’ve won a division.”

Cuni credited Lisa Thal, Beth Adkins and Marianne Taylor with setting Losantiville’s championship pace.

“Lisa has been our mainstay for quite a while,” Cuni said. “She still works in an office, but she takes five days off to play. She’s been a rock. Beth and Marianne are absolutely two of our top-notch young players. Marianne is our club champion.

“I also have to give Carol Sarver a shoutout. She was always there and ready to play.”

Like Roberts’ Elks team, team captain Sue Brainer’s Kenwood squad rode a balanced effort to the Division II championship. Kenwood moved into first place in Week Two and pulled away.

“I would say we all played well,” said Brainer, the GCWGA president. “I wouldn’t single anyone out. You don’t always have the same partner. Everybody knew each other. We had played on Fall Team before, so we had experience. We played well together. You have to play as a team.”

Win or lose, Roberts pointed out that the women truly enjoy the team tournaments.

“I just want to thank the GCWGA for sponsoring team play,” she said. “It gives players a chance to meet women golfers from other clubs and share in a competitive event.”

“I would agree with that,” Brainer said. “When people think of the GCWGA, they usually think about the different tournaments, but the Fall and the Spring Team tournaments are a big part of it, and so are the clubs that will sponsor these events as benefits of being members of the GCWGA. We do pay to play, but they give up their clubs for us to play. It’s a great opportunity for women to experience a different type of competition. Other events are stroke play. This is a chance for wome to play match.”

The movement back and forth between divisions also is a plus. The top teams from each division move up to the next-higher one, replacing those lower-rung teams that fall.

“I had a great time,” Brainer said. “I’m looking forward to playing different courses next year.”

By Mark Schmetzer