2006 Histort of Ladies Golf

With so many Girls and Women taking up the wonderful game of Golf I have tried to write the History of Ladies Golf, anybody who has anything to contribute please contact

The first mention of ladies playing the ancient game is that of Mary Queen of Scots, playing golf in the fields outside Seton Castle after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, in 1567.Lord Darnley probably made Mary the first golf widow! It is more than one hundred years, before another record of ladies playing golf is recorded. In 1774,Mr. Thomas McMillan, of Shorthope, presented the lady members of the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club with a silver trophy for the annual tournament between the married and unmarried lady members. The same club in 1810 "agreed to present by subscription a handsome new creel and skull to the best female golfer who plays on the annual occasion on the 1st January next to be intimated to the first ladies by Mr. Robertson, the Officer of the Club. Two of the best Barcelona silk handkerchiefs to be added to the above premium of the Creels".
By 1867,St.Andrews Ladies Golf Club was founded, quickly followed by clubs at Carnoustie, North Devon, Westward Ho! and Wimbledon. They played their golf dressed in hats, high stiff collars and long skirts, which must have required great skill to swing a club. They played over shorter Courses, much shorter than the ladies tees of today.
On the 19th April 1893,the Ladies Golfing Union was formed under the guidance of Miss Issette Pearson, a member of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club. Thirty-two delegates attended the meeting, from twelve clubs. The numbers quickly grew and included clubs from all over Great Britain and the Commonwealth. It is interesting to note that the Edwardian women elected four male Vice Presidents. A Tom Gilroy was elected as the Irish Vice-President. The same year, Miss C.E. McGee, the inaugural honorary secretary of Royal Belfast Ladies, was organizing the lady golfers in Ireland. The ladies were playing golf at Belmount, Birr, The Heath, The Curragh, Dungannon, Hollywood, Killymoon, Lurgan, Newcastle, North West, Royal Portrush and Thomastown, by this time. Miss McGee wrote to her counterpart, a Mrs. Mann at Royal Portrush, the letter was read to the meeting, on the 25th September and the ladies of Royal Portrush responded positively. The letter read: "Dear Mrs. Mann, at a meeting of our Committee held some time ago, it was proposed to form an 'Irish Ladies Golfing Union 'embracing all Irish lady golfers and to have as its objective an annual championship competition on different links in Ireland, the first to take place at Carnalea, Co. Down. We proposed to hold a representative meeting shortly, which we hope some members of the different clubs would attend for the purpose of discussing the scheme, drawing up rules, arranging prizes, etc. We feel some diffidence in taking this step but perhaps our seniority as the first Ladies Golf Club in Ireland will kindly be deemed as a sufficient reason. Will you kindly bring the subject before your committee at your earliest convenience and let me know if they will be willing to fall in with our plans." Thus, seeds were sown for the foundation of the ILGU, which didn't 't find it necessary to have male Vice-Presidents.
On Friday, 15th December 1893,the inaugural meeting took place in the Girls 'Friendly Society Lodge, Belfast. It was attended by sixteen women from Royal Belfast, Dungannon, and the Royal County G.C. (Royal Portrush). Mrs. G. M. Shaw, of Royal Belfast, was elected the first Chairwoman of the ILGU. The first documented Irish lady-golfer dates back to the autumn of 1887,when a Dr. Collier invited Miss C.E. McGee to Kinnegar, Hollywood, Co. Down, to witness a very rare species, a lady-golfer! This was Mrs. Wright, the wife of a Captain Wright, of the Scottish Light Infantry, stationed in Belfast.
An article in 'The Field 'of 1st October, 1887, records 'Mr. Gregg, captain of the club, and Mrs. Wright, played in a foursomes against Col. Lyon Campbell, R.E, and Capt. Wright, Gordon Highlanders. The match attracted quite a turnout of ladies. At the end of the first round, the former were four up, the lady having played particularly well. In the second round, however, the Colonel and his partner pulled the game down to all-even and one to play. The last hole was keenly contested and was won by a long and well-laid putt of Capt. Wright.' Back across the water, Miss Pearson, and the lady-members of Royal Wimbledon Golf Club, had decided to hold the British Ladies 'Open Championship. At precisely the same time, the ladies of Lytham and St Anne 's advertised an open competition, with a 50-guinea trophy to the winner. The two groups decided to join forces and hold the British Ladies 'Open Amateur Championship at St Anne 's Old Links, under the auspices of the Luther Championship attracted thirty-eight competitors, who played twice over the nine-hole Course measuring 4,264 yards, the longest being 337 yards.
Lady Margaret Scott won the first three Open Championships, beating Miss Pearson in the first two finals. Entries from Ireland and France competed in the early championships, but it was not until 1897,that ladies from Scotland crossed the border to do battle with their sisters. That same year saw the two Orr sisters competing in the final; this feat was repeated in 1907 when Mary Hazlet won her third final by beating her sister, Florence. Their other sister, Violet, was runner-up in 1911.They were daughters of Major Hazlet, a famous amateur golfer who went head-to-head against the legendary Bobby Jones several times through the 1920s.
In 1913,the Championship was extended to 36 holes. Prior to this change, a few dominant lady- golfers had emerged, including Dorothy Campbell, who had the distinction of being the first lady to hold the British and American Open Championships the same year, in 1909.
Lottie Dodd won the Championship in 1904, having been the Lady Wimbledon Tennis Champion in 1887.Another group of sisters emerged, during the period prior to the Great War, the Leitch sisters from Silloth. The most dominate among them was Cecil, who played in the semi-final as a first-time entry in 1908.She went on to win the Championship in 1914,she also won the English and French Championships, before the war. After the Great War, she won the British in 1920 and 1921.In 1921 she beat the legendary Joyce Wethered in the British and French Opens, to become the only person ever to have beaten Miss Withered twice. This great rivalry continued until 1929 when Joyce married Lord Heathcoat- Amory and retired from competitive golf to concentrate her efforts constructing one of the finest country-house gardens in Devon. In between times,
Wethered won the British Open in 1922,1925 and 1929,Cecil Leitch won her fourth Championship in 1926.Two French ladies won the Championship in 1927 and 1928, Mlle. Thione de la Chaume in 1927 and Mlle. Nanette le Blanc in 1928. 1929 saw the arrival of Glenna Collett, at St Andrews, the four-times American Open Champion, who met Joyce Wethered in the final and lost 3 and 1.The following year, she won the American title for the fifth time, but was beaten by Diana Fishwick, who became the mother of Bruce Critchley, the golf commentator.
Harriet and Margaret Curtis first played in the British Open at Cromer, in Norfolk, in 1905.It was at this Championship that the reigning champion Lottie Dodd, arranged an impromptu 'international 'match between USA and Great Britain and Ireland. The Curtis sisters were thrilled at playing for their country and the idea for the Curtis Cup was conceived.
It was not until 1930 that another unofficial match was arranged at Sunningdale and two years later the first Curtis Cup was staged at Wentworth with the USA winning by 5 matches to 3 matches. The Curtis sisters donated a beautiful, silver bowl to be played for every second-year. It was not until 1947 that an American first won the British Open. Mildred Didrikson, who changed her name to Babe Zaharias after her marriage to a Greek wrestler, was a remarkable sportswoman. In 1932,at the Los Angeles Olympics, she set a new world record in the high jump, together with taking gold in the javelin and hurdles, and became the first American to win the British Ladies 'Open Amateur Championship. She lost only four holes in the six rounds and won the final by 5 and 4. She turned professional and won the US Women's Open three times, together with twenty-eight other titles; sadly, she died of cancer in 1956.She was instrumental in founding the US Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950, together with other lady professional golfers. Most notable among them was Patty Berg, who served as President of the LPGA from 1950 to 1952.In 1935 she was beaten finalist in the US Championship at the age of seventeen. She turned professional in 1943 and was the leading lady golfer in America until the late 50s.Wilson signed a sponsorship with her, which guaranteed an income when there was little money on the Ladies Tour. She won the US Championship in 1946;she won the Ladies ' Amateur in 1938,the Title-Holders seven times and the Western Open seven times and was leading money-winner in 1954,1956 and 1957. At Richmond, California; she recorded a record low of 64, in 1952,which stood for over a decade. She retained her interest in golf right up to the present time, giving particular interest to cancer research and children 's golf. She has been honored by being included in the World Golf Hall of Fame and in 2001 was named the honorary chairperson of the 2002 Solheim Cup to be played at the Interlachen Country Club, Edina, Minnesota, from September 20-22. Making the announcement at Berg 's home-club, Ty Votaw had this to say of her "Patty Berg is one of the finest women to have ever played golf. Not only is she a legend and icon in women 's professional golf, but she is also a much-loved citizen of Minnesota. Patty stands for every ideal that is associated with The Solheim Cup -integrity, sportsmanship, and excellence in golf. We are thrilled to have Patty as a member of the team that will host the 2002 Solheim Cup here in her native city and at her own home-Course". She has 15 Majors to her credit, which is the ladies tour record.
The remarkable Mary Kathryn 'Mickey' Wright suffered from arthritis in her wrists, bad feet, and had an adverse reaction to the sun. She was born in San Diego, and after a short, amateur career, she turned to the professional ranks. Between 1956 and 1969 she had 81 victories, 13 times in one season. In her best year, she won $36,000, a huge sum on the ladies tour at the time. She was followed by Nancy Lopez, who was not only an excellent golfer, but also a crowd-puller. Whenever she played, the gates tripled, and she was really the first super-star on the Ladies Tour. Born in Torrance, California, in 1957,she played on the American Curtis Cup team at Lytham in 1976 where America won 11 matches to 6 matches. Turning professional before she was twenty, she won five consecutive tournaments in her first year on tour together with four others and her winnings in her first year were $190,000. She followed her success the following year by topping the money list again with eight victories and winnings of just under $200,000.She also traveled to Europe and won the Colgate European Open in 1978 and 1979. Nancy Lopez changed the face and fortune of Ladies Golf in America, a very attractive lady with a winning smile; she opened the floodgates, attracting major sponsors and media coverage. She was joined by Pat Bradley from Australia, Jan Stephenson and Sally Little from South Africa. These ladies were such crowd-pullers that the prize money on offer doubled in the space of four years from $3 million in 1977 to $6 million in 1981.
Kathy Whitworth amassed $900,000 in her playing career, winning 82 tournaments and was leading money-winner on eight occasions. Things were very different on this side of the Atlantic. The first Ladies Professional Golf tournament was played at Tyrells Wood, in April, 1979,sponsored by Carlsberg with a prize fund of £3,000 and the total prize money for the season was £80,000.Nevertheless, the lure of making a living playing golf persuaded 17 British ladies to relinquish their amateur status and turn professional as soon as the Carlsberg sponsorship of 12 events was announced and by the time the first tournament was played, they were joined by 13 others. In 1979,there were 18 ladies tournaments and 16 pro-ams; the Women 's Professional Golf Association had a total of 47 members and Alison Sheard was the leading money-winner with close on £5,000.The following year, the prize-money had grown to £110,000 and the number of events were increased to 21.The sponsors included Volvo and Hitachi.
By 1983, the prize-money had increased to £350,000,still a long way behind their sisters on the American Tour. Joe Flanagan was Tour Director of the Women 's Professional Golf European Tour (WPEGU) from its inception until his retirement in 1991 when he was succeeded by Andrea Doyle. Under his stewardship, the organisation had grown to over 250 members and the prize-money had increased to over £2 million. European golf was still looking for a super-star and crowd-puller, Europe 's answer to Nancy Lopez. A 21-year-old, Laura Davies, from Surrey, emerged in 1985.Laura could out-drive everybody on the Tour, and in her first year she topped the Order of Merit with £21,736,and repeated it the following year. In 1987,she crossed the Atlantic for the first time and won the US Women 's Open, to become the second Briton to have won the US and British Open in the same year, the other being Pam Barton. She was joined on the Tour by new stars like Xonia Wuntsch, from Spain, Marie Laure de Lorenzi, from France, who in 1988 topped the Order of Merit with close on £100,000 in prize-money, Florence Descampe, from Belgium, who was the youngest winner on tour at the age of nineteen. As in men 's golf, the Swedes were producing their lady golfers in abundance, Liselotte Neumann who won the US Open in 1988, Helen Alfredsson who won the British Open at her first attempt. The greatest of them all has to be Annika Sorenstam, who became the first lady to break the magic 60 on Tour and just failed to become the first to win five consecutive, scheduled tournaments in April, 2001.

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