Beulah McCaffrey has won 21 women’s club championships at in Healdsburg.
But despite all those titles, McCaffrey, who turned 90 on July 26, said helping to save the golf course in the early 1980s is far more important to her.
“I would have died if we lost the course,” said McCaffrey, who lives a few blocks away from the hilly, nine-hole layout, founded in 1921 and the oldest course in Sonoma County. “Saving the club means more to me than all those titles.”
McCaffrey's daughter, Kathleen "Kathy" McCaffrey, said her mom “was a quiet and gracious champion and never talked about her amazing accomplishments,” she said.
"As you can imagine, her family is incredibly proud of her," added Kathleen McCaffrey, herself a community leader as board president of the
"I'm happy people are reading about my mother, because so many current golfers in the women’s club have no idea what she accomplished and some of them only saw her on the down side of her golfing career," she added.
Mother and daughter's leadership and dedication to Healdsburg are traits that they also share with Kathleen's father and Beulah's husband Art McCaffrey, the namesake for at Healdsburg's
"The field at Rec Park was named after him in honor of the drive he spearheaded in the 1950s to bring lights to Rec Park," Kathleen McCaffrey said. "My father was raised in Healdsburg, went away to college at the University of San Francisco, married, and returned to Healdsburg as coach (of everything in those days).
"He ended his career as when he retired in the 1980s," Kathleen McCaffrey said. "He was inducted in the Healdsburg High School Athletic Hall of Fame."
Art McCaffrey died in 2002, at the age of 87.
Beulah McCaffrey, meanwhile, took Tayman Park under her wing in the early 1980s after it had fallen on hard times under new management, “with weeds up to our knees,” she said.
There were rumors of closing the course and selling the property, but few took the talk seriously.
“I talked to players in the men’s club and women’s club and they all told me not to worry,” she said. “They said the course can’t be sold, but then I found out it could be sold.”
She rallied club members, encouraging women golfers to speak to the city council about how the course had deteriorated but how the members desperately wanted to keep it open.
“A neighbor told me there was a plan to keep the bottom 20 acres at the bottom of the course for a park and to sell the rest for homes,” she remembers. The council shared the members’ concern but wondered who would run the golf course.
“We documented everything and worked with Dale Puckett, who had taken over as head of the ” said McCaffrey. “A friend told me to form a golf commission, get the city to accept that concept, then see if we could lease the course and oversee the operation.”
McCaffrey, working with then-newcomer Phil Rice, found volunteers to staff the pro shop in four-hour shifts.
The volunteers ran the course for about six months before a management group from Chico took over the operation, but thanks to McCaffrey, Rice and a small but dedicated group of Healdsburg golfers, Tayman Park was saved.
“They did a good job until the pro shop burned down in 1985,” said McCaffrey, adding that the Chico group was losing money and got out of its lease. A new pro shop was later built using insurance money.
McCaffrey didn’t start playing until she was 33, mainly on advice of her doctor.
“I was having migraine headaches consistently,” she recalled, explaining how the doctor told her that after being a good athlete most of her life, she had to give that up when she had four children and that could be frustrating. “He recommended tennis but I couldn’t find anybody to play with so I took up golf.”
A teacher’s wife -- Beulah’s husband Art was a teacher and later principal at -- was a golfer and let McCaffrey use her husband’s clubs.
“The doctor thought if I got away from the kids once in a while it might help my migraines,” she said. “I started playing more and improving and the headaches became less and less frequent.”
Her first year of playing in 1954, she won the Novice Flight and kept going from there. She won women’s club championships in 1965-68.
However, McCaffrey had to stop playing in 1970 when she broke her back in a car accident.
“We were going to Tahoe for Christmas, it was pouring rain and we went over a 150-foot cliff,” she said. “I was in the hospital for eight weeks and was scared I might never play golf again.”
But her fears were unfounded as she won the Rohnert Park women’s title in 1971, then the Tayman Park title in 1972-73. It was during 1973 that she shot a 34-37--71 to set the course record that she believes still stands.
Actually, she shot a 68 that same year but it was during a casual round and not counted as a course record.
She won titles in 1974-78 at Healdsburg, then added Rohnert Park championships in 1978-80, as well as claiming the Tayman Park crown against in 1980 through 1986.
She did it again in 1990 and 1995, the same year she claimed the Windsor Women’s Club title. She also recorded her fourth hole in one in 1995, her third at Tayman Park.
After winning the 1996 Windsor title, she captured her final Healdsburg championship in 1997, at 75 years of age.
She kept playing and actually made the finals in 2006, losing in the title match.
Last year, she retired from playing because of shoulder problems, opting to not have shoulder-replacement surgery.
“I was going to go out and hit a few balls on my 90th birthday but there was too much going on here,” said McCaffrey, whose family came from coast to coast to honor a special woman.
“Beulah won so many club championships, we lost count,” said current Tayman Park owner Jimmy Stewart. “She’s a great person, always more concerned about others, but she helped keep the course alive during some very trying times.”
Beulah McCaffrey, who never felt the need for lessons, said abiding by the rules of the game and maintaining the integrity of the sport have always been the most important thing to her.
“When people learn to play golf, they need to learn the rules and follow them,” said Beulah, also an avid bridge player. “I don’t see so many people doing that anymore.”
But the woman who began playing golf to combat migraines and no doubt gave a few headaches to many opponents over the years, fondly recalls her accomplishments, not the least of which was keeping Tayman Park open.
“If it wasn’t for my shoulder, I might still be playing,” she said. “But it was painful and I was starting to not play so well.”
To contact Bruce Meadows, email