Hanson, the forgotten pioneer in women's golf

By Doug FergusonApril 22, 2014, 10:28 pm

It didn't take Beverly Hanson long to realize that playing golf was more rewarding than writing about it.

The pay was better, too.

Equipped with a journalism degree from North Dakota, she went to work at The Fargo Forum for 50 cents an hour and was assigned to cover a men's golf tournament. Her first byline was under the name ''Ben Hanson'' because the editor assumed the writer made a typo.

Then, she was playing golf in Florida that winter in 1944 when Hanson discovered lawn attendants were making more money.

''That's how I decided to be a golfer,'' Hanson told The Forum years later.

Hanson died April 12 in Twin Falls, Idaho, from complications of Alzheimer's and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 89.

Louise Suggs twice finished runner-up to Hanson in major championships. She's troubled that Hanson's career has largely been overlooked, even in death.

''I'm surprised nobody picked up on the fact she passed away,'' Suggs said Tuesday from her home in St. Augustine, Fla. ''I knew Bev from the very beginning. We played amateur golf together. She was a clever person, always quick on the draw. She was a great addition to the tour.''

Hanson was a key link to the formative years of the LPGA Tour, even though she was not among its 13 founding members.

The year the LPGA was formed in 1950, Hanson won the U.S. Women's Amateur at East Lake - Bobby Jones presented her the trophy - went 3-0 in the Curtis Cup and finished the year by beating Patty Berg in the Texas Women's Open as an amateur.

She won her first event after turning pro in 1951 by beating Babe Zaharias in the Eastern Open.

Hanson won 15 more times over the next decade, including three majors. That included the inaugural LPGA Championship in 1955 when she beat Suggs twice in one week. Hanson finished three shots ahead in stroke play in Fort Wayne, Ind., and then won 4 and 3 in match play between the top two medalists.

''She was a powerful hitter of the ball, and she had a powerful temper,'' former U.S. Women's Amateur champion Barbara Romack said Tuesday. ''I remember we were paired behind their group and she hit this booming drive on the second hole, a duck hook that went down a hillside in the trees. Now she's really mad. She was walking down the fairway picking up rocks in the rough. She picked up her golf ball, unknowingly, and tossed it down the canyon in the water. She was quite a player, and quite a character.''

Suggs laughed when she heard that story, and then added one of her own.

''We were in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and the front nine is very hilly,'' Suggs said. ''She hit a ball up on the side of the mountain, and as she was addressing the ball, it started to roll. We wore skirts in those days, and I can still see her pulling her up her skirt and looking between her legs watching her ball roll away. She was the class clown, so to speak, so good-natured. She was a good kid.''

Hanson won her third major at the Titleholders in 1958, the year she claimed the LPGA money title with $12,639 and the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. She retired three years later when she married Andrew Sfingi, and they raised two sons. Hanson stayed active as the women's golf instructor at Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif., for 35 years.

Golf author and historian Rhonda Glenn saw Hanson at the USGA's centennial celebration in 1995. Hanson was still making them laugh with a story about Jones presenting her the trophy at East Lake.

''She said, 'When I was presented that trophy from Robert T. Jones Jr., I stood there with a smile on my face bigger than when I got married, bigger than when I came home from my honeymoon. It was the greatest day in my life,''' Glenn said. ''She was so smart, and so funny.''

Glenn put together an obituary for the USGA's website. The LPGA Tour has made no mention of Hanson's passing on its website.

Mark Johnson returned to his roots in North Dakota nine years ago when he became head pro at Fargo Country Club, where Hanson's father long ago was a member. He recalls seeing a framed photograph in a short hallway that leads to a dining room in the clubhouse. It was Hanson posing with the U.S. Women's Amateur trophy.

''I thought that was pretty neat,'' Johnson said. ''In visiting with older members, they would talk about her, but not give any detail. She won the Amateur. The photo was taken at Fargo Country Club. That was really the extent of my research.''

Sports Illustrated in 1999 published a list of each state's top 50 athletes ever. The only golfer from North Dakota was Shane McMenamy at No. 40. He won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1996, the first 16-year-old winner since Tiger Woods.

These days, any buzz about golf and North Dakota is about Amy Anderson, an LPGA rookie from tiny Oxbow, N.D., who tied for seventh in Hawaii one week after Hanson died.

Johnson, meanwhile, plans to take that framed photo of Hanson and create a prominent display at Fargo Country Club for everyone to see, allowing members to appreciate Hanson's career and her contributions.

''I showed it to my 14-year-old daughter,'' Johnson said, ''and the next day she was out here practicing for four hours.''


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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.