Bonnie Braes Golf League

For nearly 20 years, the ladies of the Bonnie Braes golf league at Maxwelton Braes in Baileys Harbor continue to carry a tradition of camaraderie and friendship through their common interest in the game of golf.

The Thursday night ladies’ league began in 1994 by a varied group of Door County career women and business owners looking to get together in the afternoon to relax after a hard day’s work. The league is comprised of women of diverse careers including retail shop owner, emergency room doctor, postmaster, and real estate agent – all looking to connect on a social level.Katie Sikora

“Golf for a long time was a game only played by men,” comments Stephanie Heald-Fisher, granddaughter of Maxwelton Braes past owners, Harry and Lois Ridings. “The Bonnie Braes league gave women a chance to just go out and play and not worry about living up to their husbands’ standards.”

“It was one night of the week that we didn’t have to cook dinner,” jokes Marilyn Peterson, the league’s president for many years. “We would just pre-make something that our husbands couldn’t screw up.”

Led by “founding mothers” including Sharon Koessl and Midge Dana, a simple vote produced the aptly name Bonnie Braes that kept with the Scottish tradition of Maxwelton Braes (see sidebar).

Although the game of golf has brought these ladies together, competition is clearly not the primary goal. “One of the great things about our league is that we’re very welcoming, especially to newcomers,” comments Paula Cashin.Katie Sikora

Despite varying levels of play, all golfers are encouraged. Typical nine-hole scores can range from the 40s to the 60s.

“Everyone gets along so well, and we have established some great friendships,” says past president Kathy Ray. “Golfing is probably secondary as we enjoy our time together after golfing just as much.”

A Wee Bit o’ History…

Michael McArdle built Maxwelton Braes in the early 1900s. He was inspired by Maxwelton House, a rural mansion that stands today in the quiet rounded hills of Dumfrieshire, Scotland, known as Maxwelton Braes.

McArdle passed away in 1939 and left his nephew Harry Ridings with a trust that enabled him to purchase Maxwelton Braes. He and his wife Lois, who are the grandparents of former league member Stephanie Heald-Fisher, owned and managed the resort for the next 60-plus years.Katie Sikora

Heald-Fisher has a lifetime of family memories at Maxwelton Braes and can still visualize a large portrait of Annie Laurie that once hung in the hallways of her family’s resort. Laurie was the daughter of the baronet of Maxwelton House and the inspiration to ‘The Balad of Annie Laurie’ an old Scottish love song in which the first line reads “Maxwelton’s braes are bonnie.” (Translation:  Maxwelton’s hillside slopes are pretty).

Read more about Michael McArdle on page 38 of this issue.

Photography by Katie Sikora.

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