Long before Title IX, there was Marnie Laatz
In 1967, during her sophomore year at Seattle’s Queen Anne High School, Marnie Laatz was excited when the announcement was sent out to try out for the golf team. But when she was told she couldn’t try out for the team because she was a girl, it was a shock to her.
“I wasn’t upset,” she remembers. “I was just astonished. It had never occurred to me that they wouldn’t let me play. I was just following in my brothers’ footsteps.”
She usually played golf only with boys, and her two older brothers had played for the high school team. She had been taught the game by her dad, Lorenz, during youthful summers spent at the 9-hole Bayshore course (now closed) near Shelton, Wash.
The next year she showed up again, and again was told she couldn’t play. Then, as a senior, and after some behind-the-scenes pressure applied by her dad, she was allowed to try out – and, after five qualifying rounds, she made the team.
“I didn’t set out to be a women’s libber or change the world or anything,” said. “I just wanted to play golf, and nobody at the time was ever able to give a good reason to not let me play.”
During her senior year, in 1969, she played her way into four of the team’s eight matches, regularly breaking 80 while playing from the same tees as her male counterparts, and earned a varsity letter. The local media followed her, as well as Golf magazine, which took her story national. All of this was three years ahead of Title IX, the federal legislation introduced to require schools to provide equal opportunity for female athletes.
At the end of her senior year, Marnie was approached by Arizona State University. “They told me they didn’t have any scholarships for girls, but if I could get there on my own, then they’d let me play in local events,” she said. “My parents didn’t have the money to send me there, so I went to Washington State University, which didn’t have a women’s golf team.”
Marnie went on to become a physical education teacher for most of her career, at North Kitsap High School and then Bainbridge Island High School, both in Kitsap County across Puget Sound from Seattle. She also coached the girls’ golf team at Bainbridge.
Now with a master’s degree in exercise physiology, she is a published author and personal fitness trainer at Alderbrook Resort outside of Seattle, and just finished a three-year winter commitment as the fitness coordinator at Superstition Mountain G&CC in Arizona where she conducted their Titleist Performance Institute workshops. She also conducts seminars, giving speeches about her experiences.
“My memories of those days are all good,” she now says. “I loved playing golf, loved playing with my dad. Even all the guys on my team were totally cool with it, and very supportive; they were all so great to play with, even the guys I beat. We all had a lot of fun. It was just such a struggle for girls in those days, just to get to do anything. Now, it’s great to see the opportunities that girls have, particularly with athletics – they’re very lucky now, the team spirit and camaraderie they experience by being able to simply compete on a team. They have no idea how hard it used to be.”