SI Vault
Gwilym S. Brown
August 21, 1961
A little girl with a firm but odd grip, Judy Torluemke has been winning golf tournaments since she was 7. She is 16 years old now and one of the best—and most engaging—prospects ever
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August 21, 1961

A Small But Handy Prodigy

A little girl with a firm but odd grip, Judy Torluemke has been winning golf tournaments since she was 7. She is 16 years old now and one of the best—and most engaging—prospects ever

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This week and next in the Pacific Northwest the girls and the women of U.S. amateur golf are getting together for their two big tournaments of the year. These are the 61st Women's Amateur, starting on August 21 in Tacoma, Wash., and the 13th annual Girls' Junior Championship, which will be winding up this week in Seattle.

While the Women's Amateur is the major championship, of course, its little sister (for girls 17 and younger) surrenders nothing in the way of fun, color or competitive vigor. The youngsters play such fierce golf, in fact, that last year's winner, Carol Sorenson, battled to the 18th hole in three of her four preliminary matches, to the 20th in the other, and didn't win the 18-hole final match until the 17th green.

The girls' championship has been a tremendously effective finishing school. No less than six of the last seven Women's Amateur champions, plus three-time Open winner Mickey Wright, have sprung directly from the ranks of the junior event, which has now become so popular that there is a starting field of 70 this year.

Many of these will be staying on for next week's Women's Amateur, and several of them—including Ann Baker of Maryville, Tenn., Mary Lou Daniel of Louisville, both 16, Roberta Albers of Tampa, and Peggy Conley of Spokane, both 14—are almost certain to be making golf news in the years to come. But the most promising of the lot, win or lose this week, is the charming, freckle-faced, curly-haired brunette on the cover, 16-year-old Judy Torluemke of St. Louis.

In Judy, golf has a real child prodigy. She has been winning tournaments since she was 7 years old. Her first was a hole-in-one contest sponsored by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and it drew 602 entries. Though she was not quite four feet tall, weighed only 42 pounds and needed her driver on the 102-yard hole (most of the contestants were using short irons), she pounded all three of her shots within 15 feet 2 inches of the cup and won the women's division with an average margin of 14 feet 5 inches.

Wasn't she surprised to do so well, Judy was asked recently. "Not really," she said. "Daddy told me I could win, and I believed everything he said."

Paul Torluemke (pronounced Tor-lum-kee), for his part, has always had confidence in his daughter, and his devotion to her game has certainly triggered much of its success. He is a pleasant, talkative, 42-year-old redhead of German ancestry who has been an Air Force sergeant, a lithographer, a printing salesman and now runs a calendar-manufacturing business in St. Louis. Nothing but a weekend hacker even in his golfing prime, he liked the game well enough to start Judy out when she was 6� years old. She took to it immediately, and Father, fortunately, proved to be a far better instructor than he was a player. In the early days he sat near the practice tee teeing up balls for Judy by the hour as he taught her the rudiments of the swing. When winter came and Judy moved to an indoor range, she proved inexhaustible. Under her father's careful scrutiny she could bang out as many as 20 buckets of balls a session, or about 900 shots.

From this enthusiastic start Judy's golf became very good very fast. At 8 she went to Orlando, Fla. with her father and won the National Pee Wee Championship, for children 10 to 12. At 9 she won the Pee Wee again and played in George S. May's frantic All-American tournament in Chicago. By the time she was 10 Judy weighed 60 pounds, still not very large even by 10-year-old standards, but she could drive a golf ball 170 yards, shoot consistently in the 80s, and had won her third straight Pee Wee Championship. Her Pee Wee successors are now playing for the Judy Torluemke Trophy.

Even that long ago her pro at the Triple "A" Club in St. Louis, Bob Green, was ecstatic about Judy's promise. "She was the finest golfer I had ever seen," the burly 6-foot 4-inch pro said. "She still is. She hits the ball better than any golfer I have ever known." With her third Pee Wee triumph, Judy announced that she would like to be a great champion, maybe by the time she reached the advanced age of 16.

She is running slightly behind her ambitious schedule, but she has been so consistent a winner there seems little doubt that someday she will be one of this country's finest golfers. When she was 11 the Pee Wee sponsors added a category for golfers 13 to 15, and Judy won that, too. Two years ago, when she was 14, Judy became the youngest (and undoubtedly the lightest) golfer ever to win the Missouri State Women's Amateur championship, a title she took again this year. When she was 14 she also played in her first U.S. Women's Open, and last year at 15 she was the low amateur in that event.

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