Drawing an Audience
Winning team of Gladys Hay Memorial Cup: Left to right: Shani Waugh, Sarah Gautrey, Ros Fisher, Clare Elvridge, Donna Crouch, Ericka Maxwell, Lyn Meadows (Manager)
Although women's golf had always attracted some level of public interest, it was to take a visiting British team playing an exhibition match in 1936 before the Western Australian Ladies Golf Union could show significant gate takings. This money went towards the International Fund to send Australian teams overseas. During the 1950s when local players Maxine Bishop and Eileen Dawson became Australian Champions, women's golf in Western Australia began to draw much larger audiences. In 1953 the State finally won its bid to hold the Australian Championships, resulting in the biggest gate takings for a national meeting. The 1959 Australian Championships, the next to be held in Western Australia also attracted large crowds who came to support their champions.
In the decades that followed Eileen Dawson and Maxine Bishop committed themselves to administrative positions within the Union. Both worked voluntarily alongside other members to elevate the status of women's golf in Western Australia. The Union's approach was both broad and focussed: by increasing its membership base and general standards, by supporting Eileen Dawson to become president of the Australian Ladies Golf Union and by fostering potential champions. Val Gmeiner from Waroona, who had been the recipient of Union financed professional coaching while still at boarding school became the new drawcard for women's golf in the 1960s. In the Australian Amateur Championship of 1960 she caused two major upsets. Firstly she squeezed out the 1952 Australian champion, Joan Fisher from qualifying and then defeated the defending champion, Eileen Dawson in the first round. After winning the State Championship, Val Gmeiner reached the semi finals in the 1963 national competition to gain selection in the Australian Commonwealth team squad. The following year she and Eileen Dawson were runners up in the Australian foursomes.
By the time Western Australia hosted the Australian Ladies Golf Union's Golden Jubilee Championship meeting in 1971, Val Gmeiner had won her second of four State Championships. Other State team members were also highly accomplished. Gayle Flynn from Collie had gained national recognition in winning the Australian Junior Championship in 1969 and the State Championship the following year. Lynette Ryan from Manjimup had won five State Championships; while Jane Hayter, Gwen Cole and Gloria Smith had all been runners up in State Championships and were experienced State team members. Having Western Australian competitors of this standard extended the possibilities for sponsorship, which included the Western Australia's Rural and Industries Bank and the Western Australian based airline, MMA. However, the lack of local media coverage of the tournament disappointed the Union. In the mid seventies, the Union Council wrote to the Minister for the Media protesting about the low rating given to sport and sporting programmes on television. The Union also gave support for the formation of an umbrella organization, the Western Australian Sports Federation, to gain more leverage for sports funding and promotion.