In the July Fountain: Friendship, travels form bond for golfers
By Sarah Robertson
It's 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon at the MeadowWood Golf Course clubhouse, and seven ladies are chatting away sharing peanuts and wine. It's clear they are longtime friends, happy to be together.
This group of ladies (plus one that lives in Portland) has no official title or structure, but since 1981, they have taken a golf trip together every year. Jean Hatcher, Billie Etter, Bette Harmon, Sandy McLaughlin, Diana Newberry, Carol Alboucq, Patsy Lynn and Ets Yamada (the one that lives in Portland) met playing golf at the courses in Liberty Lake - "before there were houses here," they will remind you.
The fun started when, according to McLaughlin, "We decided as friends and thought we would go watch the LPGA in Portland … so we just went to watch. Then, the next year, we went to Seattle and watched the LPGA there. And then we thought we would just go play ourselves."
The group started with McLaughlin, Etter, Alboucq, Newberry and Yamada, plus two more original members who have since passed away and another who retired from golf.
Their first golf trip was to Kokanee Springs in British Columbia. They played several courses on the four-day trip. Originally, the group intended to travel to Canada every year but have since visited a variety of regional courses.
For McLaughlin, "I like the fact that each one of us has a different personality, we trust each other and that we get to play so many different golf courses. It's just a really good group."
It's clear from the chatter that they have memories of all the courses - good and bad.
"Remember the course where the ducks climbed into the car?" Alboucq recalls with a chuckle.
"Bear Mountain in Chelan was my favorite," remembers Hatcher. "Suncadia was nice, too. At Christina Lakes, we got bee stings - mean, killer bees! Black Butte in Oregon was the farthest we have gone - too far. It didn't leave enough time to play the first day."
Fun is had on and off the golf course. The ladies motto is borrowed from a famous Nevada destination: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
The trips are generally three days long in September, after the summer rush has died down. No husbands or other family members are allowed.
"We take scotch and Miller Lite beer, a little wine and champagne," McLaughlin confesses.
According to Lynn, they also perform skits for one another: "The funniest thing ever is Sandy as a hairdresser. Jean and Billie were Luigi and Luigiana for a skit once, too."
"I love all these women," Harmon says. "I am really happy they asked me. We have a really good time. I look forward to it all year long."
Hatcher reminisces for "our darling Ets" in absentia, claiming Yamada loves the trips because "‘we don't have to invite anybody else. I don't need anymore friends.' That's exactly what she would say."
The others readily agree.
When asked their favorite part of the annual trips, three themes pop up in each woman's answer: laughter, friendship and golf.
The trips certainly aren't without mishaps. One year, Alboucq was pulled over "not ten minutes out of town." Luckily, she got away with a warning. In Walla Walla, the group called for a cab, and the car that arrived only had room for three people - it was a cozy ride!
Another year, Newberry pushed Etter's suitcase into the bushes because it was too big. The group only takes two cars - four women in each plus luggage and golf clubs. They have learned to pack light.
"Two people are in charge every year. They decide where we go and organize the whole thing," Newberry explains.
While they love to golf and enjoy trying new courses, Alboucq sums up the general feeling of the group: "I don't know where we're going this year, but I look forward to it every year."
The ladies also gather for each birthday and create any excuse they can to get together. Last year, after golfing at Suncadia and visiting a bar in Roslyn (made famous in "Northern Exposure"), they had a "Northern Exposure" party - enjoying the television show filmed there in the 1990s that is one of Alboucq's all-time favorites.
And the group of ladies show no sign of slowing down. Not once did anyone mention a final golf trip, hanging up their clubs or how they would stay in touch once the current traditions have passed.
After an hour of reminiscing, it's time to take a group photo (minus "our darling Ets," of course).
As the women line up against the wall of the clubhouse, they are joking and laughing - telling each other where to stand or where they won't stand.
It seems as though McLaughlin is right: "Each one of us has a different personality. … We trust each other. … It's just a really good group."