Before Annika There Was Babe

By Mercer BaggsMay 19, 2003, 4:00 pm
This is the first of a two-part story on the life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the first female to compete in a men's professional golf tournament and arguably the greatest athlete, male or female, of all time
 
Long before the days of smoke and smog, the sun radiated uninhibitedly over Southern California on January 7, 1938.
 
It was the first day of the 13th annual Los Angeles Open; an event one could enter -- with the tournaments permission -- simply by filling out an application.
 
Jimmy Thomson won the 72-hole tournament over John Revolta; Henry Picard and Lawson Little shared third, while Horton Smith and Lloyd Mangrum tied for fifth.
 
But it was a 5-foot 6-inch 115-pound 26-year-old who created local fervor -- even though she missed the cut.
 
Yes, she.
 
Sixty-five years before Annika Sorenstam announced she would accept an invitation to play in the Bank of America Colonial, Babe Didrikson became the first female to participate in a mens professional golf tournament.
 
There was no national exposure, no debate as to whether or not she was doing justice to her gender - just local photographers, scribes and patrons viewing the spectacle.
 
And Didrikson always provided a show. She was boisterous, gregarious and brash; full of vim and vigor, but not bravado ' she could back up her antics with action.
 
'All of my life I have always had the urge to do things better than anybody else.' ' Babe Didrikson
 
Mildred Ella Didriksen (she later changed the 'E' to an 'O' so as not to be confused as Swedish) was born June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas, to Norwegian immigrants.
 
The family moved 17 miles inland to Beaumont in 1915 after a hurricane devastated the Port Arthur area.
 
Living in the rough south end of town, Mildred, the sixth of seven children, was more than a tomboy. She didnt just play with the boys, she beat them ' or beat them up.
 
In an era when female athletes were almost unacceptable, Babe, as she would soon forever be known, was as much a force as she was a freak of nature.
 
She excelled in everything in which she competed: basketball, golf, track, bowling, tennis, billiards, baseball, swimming, diving, boxing and volleyball (just to name a few).
 
Golf was far from the forefront of Didriksons fertile mind during her secondary years in Beaumont. She first gained prominence in basketball - her high-school team never lost and she reportedly scored 106 points in a game.
 
It was because of her hardcourt prowess that she left high school during her junior year -- with the reluctant permission of her parents -- to work for the Employers Casualty Company of Dallas.
 
They paid her to be a secretary, but hired her to play for the companys Golden Cyclone basketball team.
 
Babe earned All-American honors from 1930-32. But it wasnt in her nature to be content dominating inferior opponents without seeking out other challenges.
 
With an eye on everything, she soon focused on track. There her legend was nationalized.
 
In what would warrant an explosion in popularity and endorsement deals today, she single-handedly won the 1932 AAU Championships, which then served as Olympic qualifying.
 
On July 16 in Evanston, Ill., Babe, the sole representative of Employers Casualty, totaled 30 points ' eight more than the runner-up team, who had 22 athletes.
 
She won five of the eight events in which she competed and tied another. She also set four world records, and did it all in a three-hour span.
 
At the 32 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she was only allowed to participate in three events. She won gold in the javelin and 80-meter hurdles, and took silver in the high jump after two judges ruled against her - even though she jumped the same height as the gold medallist.
 
Over the next couple of years, Babe cashed in on her celebrity by barnstorming. She performed in vaudeville acts, competed in various sports against both men and women, and even sparred against heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey.
 
But eventually the public's interest waned, and when it did it was time for Babe to find a new wave to ride. That vehicle was golf.
 
Related Links:
  • Part 2 - Before Annika, There Was Babe
  • Babe Zaharius Bio in the World Golf Hall of Fame
  • ''Everything Annika'' Feature Page
  • Annika and the Colonial Timeline
  • Full Coverage of the Bank of America Colonial
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.