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Chipping Away Barriers: Jane Pohlman Hits a Hole-in-One for Equality

Mar 01, 2022 11:42AM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Jane Pohlman shows off large silver golf trophy

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

“No dogs or women allowed,” the sign boasted behind the 18th green at St. Andrews in Scotland. Women weren’t allowed inside the elite hallowed clubhouse doors of The Royal and Ancient golf club as members until 2014. The sign came down, and after 260 years in existence, women chipped away at another barrier in a male-dominated sport. Female members would have to wait another five years to obtain a locker room in the clubhouse.

Women, though, have hit the fairways for generations, but have fought their way out of the proverbial sand trap for an equal shot on the greens. Even Mary, Queen of Scots, reportedly played the game in the 16th century, scandalously just days after her husband’s murder. If it weren’t for passionate golfers like Jane Pohlman, the sport still might be mainly a man’s game. 

Pohlman, then Jane Deeter, fell in love with golf at 8 years old after crushing on a golf pro at Lincoln Country Club. The tips and tricks she learned landed her a championship in her age group at the Jim Ager Golf Course in the mid-1960s, the first year the course was open. In 1972, Pohlman learned Lincoln didn’t have any competing girls’ golf teams for high schools. Women hadn’t even earned the right to have their own credit cards without a husband’s signature. Depending on the state, females couldn’t serve on juries because they might swoon hearing about grisly crimes such as rape and murder. Harvard wouldn’t admit women until five years later. And the inequality in sports meant only 300,000 females played at the collegiate or high school levels. Athletic scholarships were nonexistent. 

Pohlman knew with the passing of Title IX, which outlawed discrimination based on sex, she had a chance to create change. The Lincoln Southeast sophomore, along with her Lincoln East High School friend Kathy Hughett, attended school board meetings and wrote letters. The two helped launch the first girls’ golf teams at the four Lincoln high schools. 

Pohlman didn’t stop there. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln didn’t have a team so, in 1976, she lobbied then-athletic director Bob Devaney, men’s golf coach Larry Romjue, and the Nebraska Board of Regents. Devaney, a family friend, purportedly didn’t want to take it on. Pohlman heard years later that the idea was pushed through by Dr. Virginia Trotter, a former UNL dean and assistant secretary of education during the Ford Administration.  

“If you don’t take it on, I will do it outside the university,” Trotter is rumored to have said in a meeting. 

Pohlman, along with friends she recruited, took to the courses as the first Cornhusker women’s golf team. 

“We had nothing,” Pohlman said. UNL gave them no cold weather gear, no matching bags, and no uniforms. The ladies bought white shorts and red shirts with their money. In one black and white photo, Romjue smiles alongside his team of five women wearing flexible bell-bottoms and dressy shirts. 

“He [Romjue] was a good player. He was hilarious and pretty much let us do whatever we wanted to do,” Pohlman recalled. 

Despite little guidance and funding, the Huskers dominated during tournaments that year. The golfers took home the first-ever Big Eight Conference title, ending the two-rounds at 684 in Missouri. The celebration didn’t end since Nebraska qualified for the AIAW National Championships in Michigan, finishing 22nd out of 36 teams. 

“We had a lot of fun dynamics on that team,” said Pohlman, who loves to get together with her old teammates and reminisce. 

Despite the victory, the ladies didn’t receive their Big 8 Championship rings until 2006. The Huskers continued their success, qualifying for nationals twice more. A year out of college, Pohlman married husband Craig and later had three daughters. 

“She’s been beating me for 45 years. I’ve become accustomed to losing,” Craig said, laughing. “She enjoys playing golfers of any caliber. She doesn’t care what anyone shoots.”

“I play to have fun,” Pohlman agreed. 

During tournaments, she puts on her competition face. She meditates and clears her mind even during windy weather or up against serious opponents. 

“Every shot is a new shot,” she often reminds herself. She won numerous championships, chaired countless tournaments, and volunteered for many programs. 

During her last state senior championship at Oakland Country Club in 2013, she tied Susan Marchese after three days of play. Pohlman chipped the ball in with a birdie on a par 4. The crowd went wild. Moments such as these make her want to keep competing at age 65. 

Yet, another memory ranks at the top. A hole-in-one. Not her own, but her daughter Angie’s. 

“I got one before my mom,” Angie said with a chuckle. “But without my mom’s support and encouragement, I never would have gotten it.” 

Pohlman became an assistant golf coach at Millard South when daughters Angie and Carly played. Her other daughter, Stephanie, decided the game wasn’t for her. Pohlman loved watching the green light go on when a player “got it.” Pohlman has since earned her hole-in-one, at Oak Hills Country Club on the ninth in 2021. In a photo holding up the ball, her muscular frame in a blue tank top and a patterned skirt makes her look much younger. Pohlman stays in shape not just to play golf these days, but to lift her grandchildren. Evie, 6, has taken up the clubs already. 

“I like the sand traps best,” Evie said. She hands a treat to Wilson, Pohlman’s bulldog who is content to chase tennis balls rather than golf balls. Pohlman picks up a tennis racket when not putting on the golf courses. 

She hasn’t stopped demanding equality. 

At Oak Hills, for example, women were restricted on course times. Men filled the premium tee times, such as Saturday and Sunday mornings. Pohlman advocated for inclusive play. Specifically, in 1990, she collected tee time utilization data to help the tee times be more friendly toward women players.

“I’m a really speedy golfer. I play faster than the men,” she said. 

Pohlman, the Nebraska Women’s Golf Association President in 2003, ensured competitions ran more professionally. Women’s tournaments were run on the honor system. Pohlman helped instate real-time scoring and official starters, which paved the way for future generations. Despite how far women’s golf has come, private golf clubs that deny women memberships still exist. The prize purses favor the PGA over the LPGA. 

“But we’ve come a long way,” Pohlman said. “Golf has added so much to my life. I found it so rewarding.” 

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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