Edean Ihlanfeldt, an acclaimed amateur golfer who played against legends Babe Didrickson Zaharias and Patty Berg before starting the women’s golf program at the University of Washington in 1974, died Monday night in Wenatchee. She was 90.

“I cannot begin to describe how larger than life Edean was,” said UW women’s golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur, who played for Ihlanfeldt before beginning her 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.”

Ihlanfeldt (her maiden name was Anderson), grew up in Helena, Montana, and won the first of six straight state amateur championships at age 14. She went on to win four Washington amateur titles and five Pacific Northwest Golf Association titles.

She also had success nationally, winning the 1952 Canadian Women’s Amateur, the women’s Trans-Mississippi Amateur Champion 1953 and was the low amateur in the LPGA’s Valhalla Open at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore in 1964, where she and husband Robert were members.

In 1982, she won the U.S. Women’s Senior amateur title.

Edean Ihlanfeldt was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1985. (The Seattle Times, file)
Edean Ihlanfeldt was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1985. (The Seattle Times, file)

Ihlanfeldt also helped a new generation of golfers. When she took the job at UW, she did not accept a salary, instead putting the money back into the program.

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She coached the team for eight seasons, with three of her teams and five individuals qualifying for the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) championships.

“I still have lots of messages from Edean on my phone,” said Patti Marquis, who played for Ihlanfeldt and was the first woman at UW to receive an athletic scholarship. “I like to listen to her voice. Edean was one of the greatest influences in my life.”

The Huskies honor Ihlanfeldt by playing a tournament named for her each fall at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish.

Ihlanfeldt was inducted into the PNGA Hall of Fame in 1985 and the UW Hall of Fame in 1989.

Robert Ihlanfeldt, who was married to Edean in 1954, died in 1993. Their daughter Sue, a two-time women’s club champion at Inglewood CC, was with Edean when she died Tuesday.

“Edean was an absolute force, and a true pioneer for women’s golf in the Pacific Northwest and at the University of Washington,” University of Washington Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen said in the UW statement. “As the Huskies first head coach, she set the tone for a championship culture. Throughout the years, Edean remained a loyal advocate for women’s golf, and our Huskies were reminded of her impact each year by playing in the tournament bearing her name. … We will miss Edean’s competitive spirit, quick-witted humor and passion for the sport she loved so dearly.”