For someone whose four California Women’s Amateur Championship titles is tied for the most ever, Lynne Cowan’s high-level golf career got off to an inauspicious start, which is partly why she has pushed herself to such heights.
After picking up golf at the age of 12 and joining the boy’s teams in high school and at Contra Costa Community College (there were no women’s teams in the 80’s) she wasn't able to earn a spot on the San Jose State women’s team.
Sure, the squad could boast of national championships and the fact that future pros Juli Inkster and Patty Sheehan donned the Spartans’ colors. Those facts, combined with Cowan's thin junior golf resume and a lackluster tryout led to the snub that would go on to fuel her.
“I think that inspired me to try to beat all of those team members when I saw them later at city tournaments, it kind of fired me up,” said Cowan.
She married her husband, Carl, in 1987 and joined the Corral de Tierra Country Club in Salinas. Taking full advantage of the club’s better practice facilities, Cowan’s game took off immediately as she won the Women’s Golf Association of Northern California Match Play, Palo Alto City and Antioch City Championships all in that same year.
From there, Cowan’s golf career has continued on an upward trend that has seen her win the California Women’s State Amateur four times (1999, 2000, 2005, 2007). She halted 16-year-old Mina Harigae’s four-year tournament winning streak in ’05 in the semi-finals with the Monterey-born prodigy aiming to break the record of four titles she held with Shelly Hamlin. Two years later, Cowan joined that elite company by cruising to her fourth title at the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club. She was never truly challenged in the 2007 championship, besting Jennifer Johnson 5 & 4 November 10th in a 36-hole finale. Her closest match was a 4 & 3 victory in the quarterfinals.
The 2007 season also saw Cowan successfully defend her Northern California Golf Association Women’s Championship with a birdie on the final hole to take a one-stroke victory and earn medalist honors at the Chrysler National Club Championship regional qualifier. That tournament takes place in December at the Tiburon Golf Club in Florida and could earn her a second trip to the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Cowan last made it to the Bob Hope in 2005 with a victory in the Club Championship and called the experience her all-time best golfing experience.
While Cowan’s in-state golf has been record-setting, she didn't have the same luck on the national level until 2008.
Cowan qualified for a combined 19 USGA events (10 Mid-Ams, six Amateurs two Public Links and one State Team) and missed the cut in only two of those tourneys, the second round of match play was the furthest she’s advanced, that effort coming in the 1996 Women’s Amateur at Mission Hills.
She was stopped in that tournament by Eva Monisteri, who coincidently was a San Jose State golfer after the time Cowan attended the school.
After being seeded fourth after stroke-play qualifying at the 2007 Mid-Amateur, her run was again halted by Monisteri in Arizona. So, does she see Monisteri as her nemesis?
“No, no, we’re very good buddies,” laughed Cowan. “My kids have babysat hers, we play couples golf together.”
That streak came to an end at the 2008 U.S. Women's Mid-Am at Barton Hills in Michigan, when Cowan easily made match play as the No. 5 seed, then made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to eventual champ Joan Higgins.
"My goals were to win two matches that’s been a monkey on back for the last 10 years now," said Cowan of her pre-tourney expectations. "The best I’ve done is win one match. My goal was to win to and be exempt for next year. Now, this is just gravy."
Currently Cowan is an assistant coach at UC Davis after her friend Kathy DeYoung started the program, which has recently moved up to Division I.
And what wisdom does she try to impart on her team?
“I’ve always gone by the theory, never give up,” said Cowan. “I’m known as a grinder, I actually like it when it rains or is windy, I think it gives me an advantage. I try to instill that in the college players, the mental toughness to take it one shot at a time, forget what happened five minutes ago.”
--Story by Peter Conroy, amateurgolf.com