Colorado Sports Legend Joanie Birkland Passes Away

90-year-old Birkland was a member of the Colorado Golf, Tennis, Sports and Women’s Halls of Fame.

By Jon Rizzi | Photo by Michael Martin

Colorado lost one of its greatest and most beloved athletes when Joanie Birkland passed away June 14 in Denver at the age of 90.

An inductee into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame, Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, Joanie Birkland won four Colorado Women’s Golf Association match play championships and three consecutive stroke plays, capturing both titles in 1964.

Joan Birkland passes away at the age of 90She also won an unprecedented 30 consecutive ladies’ club championships at The Denver Country Club.

In tennis, Joanie once competed against the legendary Althea Gibson. She also captured six major singles and 15 major doubles championships in Colorado and the mountain region.

In 1962 and ’66, she won both the state golf and state tennis titles. In 2008, the Gates Tennis Center in Denver, headquarters of USTA Colorado, named the Joan Birkland Pavilion in her honor.

At the University of Colorado, she also played basketball for the AAU Denver Vines. A tireless advocate for women’s athletics and a mentor and role model to all, Birkland also co-founded the Sportswomen of Colorado in 1974, serving as its executive director for the next 40 years.

She also chaired the USGA Women’s Committee in 1997 and ’98 and served as general chairperson of the 1982 Curtis Cup at The Denver Country Club. She spent decades on the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame board of directors, including one term as president.

Joanie and her husband, Ormand, had belonged to Denver Country Club since the early 1950s. In early 1999, Ormand predeceased her after 50 years of marriage. Joanie remained active on the boards of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame and Sportswomen of Colorado, and as an avid golfer and bridge player.

Even after turning 90, the star athlete continued to play the course and game she dearly loved.


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