Ladies Classic continues to see growth

Iron Masters

The annual Iron Masters Ladies Classic was held earlier this week and saw Selinsgrove’s Barb Pagano and Philadelphia’s Liz Haines team up to take home the title.

This year’s tournament marked year No. 25 for the popular event, a tournament that attracts many of the best women golfers from across the state …. a far cry from the tournament’s humble beginning in 1995.

“Our first year, we had just 14 teams,” tournament director Gwen Paden said. “The following year we increased to 35, and it’s just grown from there.”

The Ladies Classic began as the brainchild of a group of women members from Iron Masters Country Club. Paden, along with fellow members Patti Dodson and Deb Showalter, had always been active in local tournament golf. They were also faithful to volunteer their help during the annual men’s Classic at Iron Masters, which began more than 40 years ago.

“We ended up getting together and decided if the men could do it … we could do it too,” Paden said when reflecting on the origins of the Ladies Classic.

The original Ladies Classic committee consisted of Paden, Dodson and Showalter, who worked hard to pull off the small, yet successful, inaugural event 25 years ago. Despite all the work involved that first year, Paden and Dodson were also able to team up and take home the first year’s championship trophy. They would go on to win three more times over the next 15 years.

The tournament, which is held on a Monday and Tuesday in early July each year, may have started small, but it’s grown in popularity among competitive female golfers over the years.

“I just really think the ladies enjoy all the games we play in addition to the tournament itself,” Dodson said, referring to the closest-to-the-pin, skins and other competitions available to contestants.

As word of the tournament spread during its early years, entries began coming in from golfers all over the state, including Somerset, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and as the fields continued to grow, so did the amount of work. The committee now begins sending out invitations months in advance. In addition, much time is spent on confirming applications, securing tournament prizes, setting up tournament meal menus and preparing scoreboards.

Kathy Bottenfield, who joined the tournament committee after becoming an Iron Masters member 12 years ago, also had high praise for the efforts of Iron Masters head pro Rick Grubb.

“Rick is so cooperative and helpful to us each year,” Bottenfield said. “He does a great job, and helps to make everything run smooth.”

This year’s event boasted a large field of 94 golfers from clubs across the state – some actually came from as far away as Florida and Louisiana. While many tournaments today are seeing their numbers dwindle, this tournament continues to thrive.

“It’s the only two-day tournament in the state where women can play in a competition with gross scores,” Paden said. “The field is also flighted to make it competitive and fair. I think that’s one of the reasons so many of the women enjoy our Classic.”

As this year’s tournament concluded, many of the participants were quick to reserve a spot in next year’s event.

“I just think all the ladies who come here have a lot of fun,” Showalter said.

Barb Pagano, from Selingsgrove, confirmed those sentiments shortly after capturing this year’s title with partner Liz Haines.

“This event is so well run and enjoyable,” Pagano said. “It’s a tournament I look forward to coming back to every year.”

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