Denver-born Joan Birkland was blessed with remarkable athletic talent. In school she went beyond what was expected of girls in sports. As a competetive athlete, she excelled in tennis, golf, and basketball. Her basketball career began in college when there were very few women’s teams. She played on an AAU basketball team called the Denver Viners.
Birkland carried her love of sports into her adult life. Twice she held the state golf and tennis titles simultaneously. She won more than a dozen state tennis crowns, and for over 10 years was one of Colorado’s dominant female golfers. Between 1960 and 1966 she won no fewer than seven Colorado golf championships.
Continuing to excel as an athlete and an organizer, Birkland was a local and national leader in promoting girls and women as athletes and in sporting events. She was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and served on their boards.
In addition, she served on such volunteer boards as the U. S. Golf Association Women’s Committee, First Data Corp. Colorado Open, and the National Girls and Women in Sports, among others. She led by example, and has built on that reputation to position herself in leadership roles.
Birkland was the Executive Director of the Sportswomen of Colorado board for almost 20 years. This organization has recognized hundreds of Colorado girls and women athletes and women who have shown excellence through their contributions to sports and coaching.
Not only had Birkland been accepted into this primarily male bastion, but she had risen to national leadership status. She initiated opportunities to provide input and open new horizons for women in sports. Recently, she was recognized in Golf magazine for her contribution and leadership in women’s golf, and was named person of the year by the Sportswomen of Colorado.
Birkland and her husband, Ormand, made their home in Denver. Birkland passed away in 2019.
Books containing reference to Joan Birkland
History of Colorado’s Women for Young People
Women of Consequence: The Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame