Canadian golf legend Marlene Stewart Streit turns 90!

For Marlene Stewart Streit, golf, she says, is all about the friends you make along the way. 

Streit, Canada’s first lady of golf, turns 90 on March 9. Her list of golfing accomplishments is long and celebrated. But even as she reflects back on a career well played, she’s more excited about the life well lived. 

“Golf, to me, is the friends you make along the way and if you miss that you’ve really missed the boat. All the trophies are fine. But they just sit there and tarnish,” Streit says. “You talk about tournaments and it’s really the friends you make along the way.”

Streit began her golf career as a caddy when she was 12 at Lookout Point Golf Club in Fonthill, Ont. and played her first tournament when she was 15. It didn’t take her long to find plenty of success at the highest level in the amateur game. She won her first of 11 Canadian Women’s Amateur titles when she was just 17. 

“In those days we had a great field. That was a pretty big deal at 17. I didn’t even know what I was doing but I could chip and putt,” she says with a laugh. 

A few years later Streit would head across the pond to compete in the British Ladies Amateur. She was part of a Canadian squad that boarded a Douglas DC-3 airplane (“Heck, she says, “I’d never been further than Winnipeg!”) and flew to Newfoundland, Iceland, Ireland, and then onwards to London. 

Streit would win the British Ladies that year, in 1953. Ten years later she traveled to Australia and won the Australian Women’s Amateur. In 1956, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur. To this day she is the only golfer in history to have won the Canadian, Australian, British, and U.S. Women’s Amateurs. 

In both 1951 and 1956 she won the Northern Star Award as Canada’s athlete of the year – to date the only golfer to win the award more than once. 

That was a “great honour,” she says, given that the race for Canada’s athlete of the year is between both men and women. But when she’d come home from tournaments – often victorious – her long-time coach Gordon McInnis would often say that, yes, she did great. But it was time to grab a shag bag and get ready for the next one. 

With a laugh, she remembers playing in the British Ladies in 1954 trying to defend her title. She thought at first 1953 would be her only opportunity to get there so she figured she better go out and “just win this tournament.” She did and returned the following year. Streit remembers getting to the semi-finals but (yes, 70 years later) recalls missing a short putt and missing out on the finals. That is “just about the only thing” she thinks about still from her tournament days, she says with a laugh.  

These days, Streit still plays often. She and JoAnne Carner (aka, “Big Momma”) are long-time pals and will tee it up in Florida together. Streit topped Carner at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1956 and still doesn’t let her live it down, although Carner says it was “just a warm-up” as she would go on to win five U.S. Women’s Amateurs herself. Streit loves watching the Canadians on the PGA Tour and Nick Taylor winning the RBC Canadian Open last summer “was amazing.” She loves Brooke Henderson too, of course. 

She has no regrets, either. 

Plenty of folks would wonder why she never turned professional and the simple answer, she says, is because she didn’t want to. Streit attended Rollins College, got married, and had two daughters – Darlene and Lynn. Her remarkable life included surviving a plane crash while at university. In an interview with the USGA in 2011, Streit recalled being thrown from an aisle seat to a window and spying a hole in the fuselage to scramble for a makeshift exit before she walked, shoeless and through snow, to a nearby farmhouse where the passengers received help. 

Streit ended up winning national titles for more than 50 years from the 1951 Canadian Women’s Amateur to the 2003 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. It was a special run that cumulated in her being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 – the only Canadian player to receive such an honor. It means a lot to her, she says, when you look at who else has been inducted. 

“I’ve had a great life. And I don’t have any regrets,” Streit says. “I did all the fun things you do in life. I had a great husband, I had a wonderful family, two beautiful daughters […] I don’t have any regrets. Why would I want to turn pro?

“My greatest joy as an amateur has been representing Canada.”

And it’s been special for Canada to have such a great representative like Marlene Stewart Streit.  

Happy 90th Birthday!