SI Vault
Joan Flynn Dreyspool
August 17, 1959
So says a lady golfer who, having carefully investigated the subject from history to hysterics, concludes that the women players are here to stay—more and more of them
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August 17, 1959

'it's A Mad World And We Love It'

So says a lady golfer who, having carefully investigated the subject from history to hysterics, concludes that the women players are here to stay—more and more of them

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"Our estimate is that women's play makes up 19% of all play," Mr. Mc-Morris noted. "Based on samplings, we found that women's play in some areas is as low as 10% or 12%, while in other areas it's as high as 40% to 45%. I am told at some private clubs that women's play now accounts for about 50% due to the fact that women are able to play more through the weekdays than are men. We have a report from a West Coast public course that women's play accounts for as much as 80% of the total play because of a very active women's program."

Legend has it that Mary, Queen of Scots, was the first woman golfer in the world. Women have been playing golf in the U.S. for nearly 70 years. The first official golf club barred women members, but in 1889 on the then six-hole St. Andrew's course in Yonkers, New York, in the first mixed foursome on record, a Miss Carrie Low, complete with cinch belt, flowing skirts, veil and bonnet, teamed with Mr. John Reid against Mrs. Reid and a Mr. Upham.

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, Long Island foretold the feminine shape of things to come. In 1893 Shinnecock built a nine-hole course exclusively for women. Shinnecock, too, boasted the first clubhouse in the U.S., again reflecting a woman's touch. Even though they had invaded the alleged man's world of golf, women still demanded the conveniences and luxuries of a well-appointed clubhouse, a principle to which they cling even more strongly today, as any harassed house committee head will testify.

In 1893, the year organized golf for women came into being in England, a group of enterprising damsels formed a seven-hole club in Morris County, New Jersey. Each hole was a drive and an iron shot, suitable for driver, cleek, mashie and gutta-percha ball. This daring venture was so successful that the course was expanded to 18 holes, and Morris County was the scene of the second women's national championship in 1896, the men's national in 1898 and the first championship of the Women's Metropolitan Golf Association in June 1900.

The first USGA-sponsored Women's Amateur Championship at the Meadow Brook Golf Club in Long Island in 1895, an 18-hole medal-play tourney, was won by Mrs. Charles S. Brown of Shinnecock Hills, who struck 132 dainty blows. The next year there were sufficient entrants for a qualifying round and match play. Sixteen-year-old Beatrix Hoyt, America's first female golf star, won the qualifying medal with a 95 and also the championship. Even then women needed to rely upon a good short game. The 1899 amateur champion, Miss Ruth Underhill of Nassau Country Club, was famous for her finesse around the greens.

There were 1,000 golf courses in the country by the turn of the century, and there are approximately 5,956 today. Philadelphia formed the first women's golf association in 1897. Now more than 125 state and regional women's golf associations have taken up the cudgels for fun and fair play for the fair sex on the fairways. Never underestimate the power of a golfing woman. We may not outdrive the men, but we have more drive.

Women's golf is so well organized today, both in associations and clubs, that any woman who will volunteer for duty can get a taste of being an executive, junior or senior. She can outline tournaments, appoint committees, buy trophies, post notices, compute handicaps, figure scores, settle arguments, explain rules.

A woman who hasn't shed a tear over her game, or had a rule called on her, or been the victim of gamesmanship, or blown a crucial putt, or had tournament jitters, or known the suspense of whether or not she would qualify, or experienced the thrill of a good shot or the joy of strolling along a fairway on a summer's day cannot call herself a golfer.

"When Glenna Collett became so popular after World War I, women started taking more lessons and practicing more," explained John R. Inglis, head pro at the Fairview Country Club in Elmsford, New York for the last 52 years. "The game became more streamlined, from clothes and equipment on down. Today women take more lessons than the men. If it weren't for the women, the pros wouldn't make the living they do today."

"The transition of many clubs from golf to country clubs, from men's sanctums to social centers, is due to the influence of women, who have helped to make golf a family game in which the children can participate with their parents," stated Joseph C. Dey Jr., executive director of the USGA.

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