Betty Boyko, one of the great pioneers of women’s golf in Connecticut, enters the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame on December 4th, 2014 in the category of “Distinguished Service.”
Boyko was instrumental in the founding of the Southern New England Women’s Golf Association (SNEWGA) in 1956, and it was her forward thinking vision and energy that launched the Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship ten years later in 1966. Women who have followed in her footsteps, and who have benefitted from her trailblazing efforts on behalf of women golfers have long revered Boyko. In 2009 SNEWGA created the Betty Boyko SNEWGA Invitational. The Connecticut Women’s Senior Amateur trophy is named in her honor.
In 2006, on the occasion of SNEWGA’s 50th anniversary, then president Gale Lemieux of Timberlin Golf Club found inspiration in the work of Betty Boyko and other early leaders when she wrote, “Recently I had the pleasure of meeting three of the first four presidents of SNEWGA, Betty Boyko, Anna Polanski and Arline Rich. These women are an inspiration for all of us to assess what we can offer back to the game and our association, and to find a way to reach out to women golfers and encourage and support their interest in the game.”
The social and competitive environment was very different in the 1950s and 1960s for women golfers. It was a struggle to convince clubs to put in women’s tees and to establish women’s handicaps. Sometimes it was hard just to get playing time. “What the founders must have gone through reminds me of that movie, ‘A League of Their Own’,” said Deb Johnson of Sterling Farms Golf Course, one of Connecticut’s top women golfers for many years.
Boyko, the President of SNEWGA in 1963-64 recalled the early years with great fondness in a 2006 interview. “I formed a committee that included members from the Connecticut Women’s Golf Association and we played the first championship in 1966,” Boyko said. “I think we had thirty-five of us playing in the first one.”
The tournament gained instant credibility when Connecticut Golf Hall of Famer Pat O’Sullivan Lucey, a former Curtis Cupper, LPGA winner and nine-time CWGA champion signed up and won the inaugural event.
“We had mostly team competitions at first with four players on each club’s team,” Boyko recalled. “It’s more competitive now because of the young players.”
The signature event in the association’s early years was the Team Championship, which has remained a fixture on the annual schedule. Boyko, who was a longtime member at Indian Hill Country Club and who also played extensively at Goodwin Park Golf Course, carded a 78 at Blackledge Country Club to win the individual medal in 1970, a round she often referred to as her best ever.
Former president of the Southern New England Women’s Golf Association and its current historian, Jenny Burrill paid tribute to Boyko as the driving force in the creation of the Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship, and the effect Boyko has had on future generations, “This is the premier women’s golf championship in the State of Connecticut. Its long and distinguished list of champions - from Barbara Young to Lida Kinicutt to Elizabeth Janangelo to Kelly Whaley - is a testament to the significance of this event. It would not have been possible without the efforts of Betty Boyko.”