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Golfer's titles add up over six decades
Golfer's titles add up over six decades
By TONY LANGE
Not too many people can say they've shot their age during an 18-hole round of golf. At 70, Mary Ann Bierman is one of the few who can.
Shooting a 69 while in Florida a year ago is one of her fondest memories while on a golf course, she said.
The South Russell resident started playing golf before she was a teenager. "My father took me to play golf 50-plus years ago, a long time ago. I started when I was 12," Bierman said. "He enjoyed the game. It was just recreational."
Nowadays, Bierman plays two to three rounds of golf a week, she said. She enjoys playing for fun, but competing in national and state tournaments is still something she likes to do.
"To me, it's just fun to see and be the best that you can be. I like to test that every now and then," Bierman said. "It brings a lot of satisfaction, no matter if I'm competing or if I'm just playing socially to have a good time."
Earlier this month, Bierman represented Kirtland Country Club in the Cleveland Women's Golf Association tournament at Lake Forest Country Club in Hudson and won her 12th district title during the weeklong event. Starting in the 1960s, she now has a crown in six consecutive decades, making her one of the all-time amateur greats in Northeast Ohio.
On Monday of that week, she had to shoot a qualifying score to make it to a single-elimination bracket of 16 players. From there, it was head-to-head match-ups on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a concluding 36-hole final championship dual on Friday.
"I thought it was a lot of fun," Bierman said. "Just to be able to play 36 holes -- I haven't done that for a while -- and to do that in one day, it was a little difficult this year with the heat. I was happy to be able to do that."
Another add-on to her victory was spending time with her grandson, Kevin Caja, who was her caddie. The 20-year-old, who was the No. 1 golfer at Solon High School, now plays for Allegheny College.
Winning the tournament with Caja at her side was a double treat, Bierman said. The only other time she had a family member caddie for her was years ago when her son, Bill Bierman, did it as a 12-year-old at the Chagrin Valley Country Club. She won that tournament too.
"I really treasure those two moments," she said. "Normally, I don't have anyone help me, read some putts," she said, referring to Caja's assistance at Lake Forest.
"He was good at walking off yardage. I don't use a range finder. I use my eye," she said while laughing. "Or my grandson's legs."
Other fond memories include watching her three children compete. Her son played golf at the University of Virginia, and her daughter, Anne Caja, played at the College of William and Mary. Her other daughter, Kathy, did synchronized swimming. All three attended Chagrin Falls High School.
As a 1981 alumna, Caja is a member of the Chagrin Falls Athletic Hall of Fame. She played on the boys' golf team during her high school years and was the No. 1 player.
Bierman and her daughter founded the Ohio Girls Golf Foundation in 1994. There were no high school girls' golf teams in Ohio at the time, Bierman said. Now, there are more than 200.
"We would love Chagrin Falls to have a girls' golf team. All my trying, and I have not been successful. That would be a goal I have. They need it," Bierman said. "It really only takes five girls.
"It's a lifetime sport, and that's why I have felt very strongly that you need the opportunity in high school to learn the game, because, after you get out, it's too difficult with time and finances," she said. "So I always thought it should be one of the life sports that should be taught in schools. Kids need team sports too, but they can do the other sports for a lifetime. They don't have to get a team together. They can just go out and play."
During the different phases of her career, not much has changed about her game besides her handicap, Bierman said. It was usually a zero or one, and now it's a four. Her drives, chips and putts always have been uniform, she said. "I've been relatively consistent, just well-balanced. I don't have any strong area in particular."
Her favorite course to play is Kirtland, she said. "It's probably one of the best courses in the state. It's a beautiful facility. One of the branches of the Chagrin River runs through it."
Kirtland is also one of the most difficult courses in the area, Bierman said. It's nearly 7,000 yards. She thinks the most challenging hole there is No. 16, she said. "It's supposedly a short par 4," she said of the hole that measures 326 yards from her tee. "It plays like 350. The elevation of the second shot onto the green is quite severe, and it's a very small target area. So it requires a placement shot for the drive, and the second shot requires a good shot to get there."
Before retiring in 1999, Bierman was a teacher in the West Geauga, Chagrin Falls, Orange and Aurora school districts, as well as at St. Joan of Arc in Chagrin Falls. When she's not golfing, she said, she likes to cook and keep up to date on current events.
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