Joan Birkland is one of those rare athletes who can pick up a new sport and play it as if they have played their whole life. Birkland’s first competitive sport was tennis, which led to her winning the Denver amateur singles titles in 1960, 1961 and again in 1965. She won state tennis championships in 1960, 1962 and 1966.
Joan began playing golf in the early 1950s and by 1960 had won her first combined golf and tennis championship, claiming both the city and state in tennis and adding the CWGA Match Play crown with a final round win over Gail Heitler at Green Gables Country Club. Birkland repeated her match play win again in 1961, 1962 and 1964. She was runner-up in 1966 and 1976. Joan won the CWGA Stroke Play Championship three straight years, in 1964, 1965 and 1966, and was runner-up the next three years from 1967 to 1969.
In 1962, after winning both the state singles tennis championship and the CWGA Match Play, Joan was awarded the Robert Russell award as the outstanding amateur athlete in the state. In 1981 Birkland was named to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
Birkland served as executive director of the Sportswomen of Colorado since the 1970s. She continued to play golf into her 90th year, passing away June 15, 2019.
1995 Golf Person of the Year
In 1995, the founder of the Sportswomen of Colorado and one of the state’s greatest all-around champion athletes was appointed Vice-Chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee and served as a Rules Official at the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor. She went on to chair of the USGA Women’s Committee in 1997 and 1998.