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Ed Hinton
May 06, 1996
A charter member of the Hall of Fame, Betty Jameson could end up homeless
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May 06, 1996

Fading Fame

A charter member of the Hall of Fame, Betty Jameson could end up homeless

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When friends offered them a better location at Pinehurst, Jameson recalls, "we said, 'No, thanks, we're going south to Delray Beach.' " There on the sweet spot of the Gold Coast, between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, they settled and went to work as teaching pros. Jameson first worked at Delray Beach Country Club—where Armour, her close friend and guru since 1938, held court and taught, gratis, in his later years—and then at the very exclusive Gulf Stream Golf Club.

So, for a long time the household was two-income, but "I was never as well-versed at making money as Mary Lena," says Jameson. Faulk also had inherited money and left a stock portfolio Jameson estimates at "maybe $200,000, maybe more. I don't know."

She dismisses the matter with a sort of grooved gesture of her left hand, still the one-handed perpetual practice swing of the pro, and still, in her case, the perfect swing. Here's a picture—shot by a friend—of Betty on a practice tee in Texas "four or five years ago." She was in her early 70's, and behind her, by coincidence, Kathy Whitworth was hitting. They happened to hit at the same moment, and both women's finishes were caught in the photo. They are identical, one the mirror of the other.

Here's the little diary Mary Lena kept of her last trip abroad, to Greece. In her meticulous hand, it opens on her day of departure: "Bye, Poppy [her dog]. Bye, house. Bye, flowers. Bye, Bess."

"When she traveled, she would never stay with friends or family—always in a hotel, where she could smoke," says Jameson. After Faulk's illness was first diagnosed as lung cancer 10 years ago, the removal of part of one lung appeared to arrest the disease. "She gallantly tried to kick the habit but couldn't," says Jameson.

Here's one of Mary Lena tan-faced, healthy, impish, beaming from beneath the floppy old straw hat she wore while gardening.

"She looked like Mahatma Gandhi at the end," says Jameson. So weak and confused was Faulk that "when they [relatives] asked her, 'Do you want to be buried or cremated?' MaryLEENah...." Here Jameson, who is standing, bends double with resounding grief, and gasps: "MaryLEENah said, 'I want to be buried, and I want Will Watt [a nephew] to sprinkle my ashes behind the 6th green at Glen Arven [Thomasville's turn-of-the-century course]. And two days later...she...died. In those last days she was so weak she couldn't talk, only whisper: 'Is this...the is?' "

And now in the predawn hours, when Betty Jameson indulges in her one luxury of each day, a sausage-biscuit and coffee at McDonald's, she is disturbed by what she sees: "Every morning there is a woman sleeping on a bench outside. I see her, and I wonder what she does, where she goes from there."

But she cannot imagine herself in that position, for surely this is all a bad dream, Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves.

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