Edean Ihlanfeldt, a Hall of Fame amateur golfer who played against LPGA legends Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Patty Berg before starting the women’s golf program at the University of Washington in 1974, passed away April 27 in Wenatchee, Wash. She was 90.
Born April 15, 1930, Edean had been a champion and golf icon in the Northwest virtually her entire life. She grew up in Helena, Mont., and got her start in the game as a teenager. In 1944, at age 14, she won her first of six consecutive Montana Women’s State Amateur Championships, and this was just the start of her hall of fame career.
Her many titles were at both the local and the national level. In 1949, at the age of 19 she won her first PNGA title. She followed with major wins at the 1952 Canadian Women’s Amateur and 1953 Women’s Trans-Mississippi Amateur. In 1962 she won the Northwest’s “Grand Slam,” taking the title in the PNGA, SWGA and WSWGA, all in one season.
In 1954 Edean married Bob Ihlanfeldt and they became members at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore, Wash., with Bob eventually becoming club president in 1959. Edean had great tournament success in the 1950s and ‘60s. When the LPGA Tour’s Valhalla Open was held at Inglewood in 1964, Edean won low amateur honors.
Edean won the PNGA Women’s Amateur five times, the PNGA Senior Women’s Amateur three times.
The 1970s found Edean busy with her family, but she continued to be a force for the game. In 1974 she was named the first coach of the University of Washington women’s golf team. So dedicated to seeing women have an opportunity to compete on the collegiate level, Ihlanfeldt never accepted a paycheck for her efforts, instead funneling her salary back into the program. The team now hosts an annual collegiate tournament named after Edean.
The competitive streak remained strong in Edean, and she set her sights on winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. She was the medalist in 1981, and then took home the national title in 1982.
“I cannot begin to describe how larger than life Edean was,” said current UW women’s golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur, who played for Ihlanfeldt before beginning her own 37-year tenure at UW, in a statement from the school. “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.”
Edean was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame in 1985, and the UW Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. A full biography of Edean can be viewed on the PNGA’s Hall of Fame website.