Women in Golf

By George WhiteMay 15, 2002, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Saturday, May 18 is Women in Golf Day.
 
Women have played a very large part in the history of golf, even before the last half of the 20th century when they finally achieved equality with men. Records of ladies playing golf exist all the way back to the time of Mary Queen of Scots.
 
Mary, you may recollect, was one of the first known golfers of either sex back in the mid-1500s. Her husband was murdered in 1567 and there was rather strong suspicion that Mary was the culprit. Mary herself was ultimately beheaded because of the incident.
 
The next 200 years are clouded in anonymity. Women certainly played the sport, but because of a strong bias toward male players, woman golfers are not mentioned in any writings.
 
Golfing ladies do not rate another mention until 1792. It is known that the women of Musselburgh were avid golfers - a letter of that date mentions women and the rules and duties of the club. And in 1810, a proposal was made to present gifts to the winning female golfer at the club.
 
St. Andrews appears to have had the first ladies club, formed in 1867. In 1868, Britains Westward Ho and North Devon followed suit. Women, however, were generally confined to courses of their own, many containing some short putting holes and a couple of longer ones requiring a drive of approximately 80 yards. The courses were so much shorter because of the outfits the women were obliged to wear ' the postures and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress, said one contemporary writer.
 
In America around the turn of the century, male-only golf clubs were known as Eveless Edens, wrote Liz Kahn in her book, The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version. In spite of this, womens golf was becoming exceedingly popular. British amateur champion May Hezlet wrote in a book published in 1907, It is now generally acknowledged that golf is a game ' par excellence ' for women. It is essentially a game for women: the exercise is splendid without being unduly violent, as is sometimes the case in hockey or tennis.
 
The USGA held the first American Womens Amateur Championship in 1895 with 13 entries. Only one round was played and the winner was Mrs. Charles S. Brown of Shinnecock Hills, who went round in 132 strokes. This was a nine-hole course that the women played twice. Mrs. Brown took an 11 on the first hole, but recovered to shoot 69 the front nine and 63 the second.
 
The British Ladies Championship was played in 1893 following the formation of the Ladies Golf Union. Thirty-one women competed at the match-play event, won by the great British amateur Lady Margaret Scott.
 
Englishman Harold Hilton commented of Rhona Adair, an exceptional turn-of-the-century womens golfer, that, Miss Adair stands up to the ball in a manner quite worthy of any of the sterner sex. There is a determination and firmness in her address to the ball which is most fascinating to watch. Lady players, as a rule, appear to persuade the ball on its way; Miss Adair, on the contrary, avoids any such constrictions on her methods by hitting it very hard indeed.
 
Such was written by Lewine Mair in her book, 100 Years of Womens Golf.
 
Two English women, Cecil Leitch and Joyce Wethered, dominated the British golfing scene for the next two decades. And after World War I, Wethered voiced the opinion that the changing fashions for golfing women led to a huge improvement in their scores.
 
I just wish that trousers had been in vogue in my day, as skirts were such a problem, said Weathered. They would fall just above the ankle, and you had to be very careful that they were tight enough not to flap, yet loose enough to let you take up your stance. Trousers apart, the only practical garment has to be a short skirt such as the Americans now wear.
 
Weathered was such an accomplished golfer that only about half a dozen men were believed to be her equal.
 
The outstanding American woman of the era was Glenna Collett Vare. Most of her competition came from Alexa Stirling - who played much of her childhood golf with Bobby Jones ' Edith Cummings, Marion Hollins, Maureen Orcutt, Miriam Burns, Virginia Van Wie, Mary K. Browne and Helen Hicks.
 
The first women professionals began to appear in the 1920s and 30s. Helen MacDonald was the first woman to sign with an equipment company, Hillerich & Bradsby, in 1924. The first to promote a manufacturers products and give golf clinics was Helen Hicks, who joined Wilson Sporting Goods in 1934.
 
Only four tournaments were open to American women in the 1930s ' the Hardscrabble Open in Arkansas, the Texas Open, the Western Open in Chicago and the Titleholders in Augusta, Ga. Patty Berg was the first woman to win a check at a golf tournament, the Womans Western Golf Association in 1941 which carried a purse of $100,000.
 
The Womens Professional Golf Association was formed in America in 1944 and existed for six years. Spurred on by Hope Seignious, who paid the bills with her wealthy fathers money, the tour foundered because of a lack of sources for revenue.
 
The U.S. Womens Open began in 1946. And in 1947, Babe Zaharias became a professional. She had been an outstanding amateur, as well as a great Olympic track athlete. She was the impetus behind the inauguration of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, formed upon the demise of the WPGA in 1950.
 
Fred Corcoran ran the organization for the women with Berg the first president. The rest of the founders were Zaharias, Hicks, Betty Jameson, Helen Dettwiler, Betty Mims White, Alice Bauer, Bettye Danoff, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Opal Hill, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith and Peggy Kirk Bell.
 
The LPGA played 14 events its first season, and by 1952 had risen to 21 events. Mickey Wright, perhaps the greatest player, joined the tour in 1955 and helped gain much-needed publicity for the tour. Kathy Whitworth, another great, joined in 1958 and eventually rang up 88 tournament titles.
 
JoAnne Carner was a rookie in 1970, Nancy Lopez followed in 1978. Lopez won five consecutive tournaments and nine titles in all that year. The following season she won eight times.
 
The LPGA today is a prosperous organization of 34 tournaments with approximately $40 million in purses ' an average of $1.19 million per outing.
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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

But here's one that deserves distinction.

Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.