Gail Sykes Clayton, who won the 1965 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, died on Jan. 20 at the age of 68 in Kernersville, N.C.
Born in Schenectady, N.Y., Sykes enjoyed a stellar amateur golf career, which included her 1965 Girls’ Junior title as well as the 1964 New York State Golf Association Junior Girls’ Championship and the 1968 national intercollegiate women’s individual titles while playing for Odessa (Texas) College.
In 1965, Sykes traveled to Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo., for the 17th U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she qualified for the 32-player match-play draw from a field of 88 competitors that included future LPGA Tour players Shelley Hamlin, Kathy Ahern and Debbie Austin, as well as future USGA amateur standouts Carol Semple Thompson, Martha Wilkinson Kirouac and Jane Bastanchury Booth. Sykes defeated Mary Louise Pritchett, 5 and 4, in the championship match.
After playing for Odessa College, Sykes transferred to East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2004.
Sykes’ other amateur triumphs included the 1975 and 1976 Ohio Women’s State Amateurs. She was the runner-up in the 1970 New York State Women’s Amateur.
The Northeastern Women’s Golf Association, based in Latham. N.Y., renamed its better-ball tournament “The Sykes.”
Sykes was a longtime educator and golf/track coach at East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, which is located between Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
She is survived by her husband of 42 years, L.B. Clayton Jr., her sister Elaine Sauers, brother-in-law Richard “Doc” Sauers, four daughters and four grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for Jan. 26 in Kernersville.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.