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The unique Meckley record was piled up not only against the physical handicap of a bad back, but also in spite of difficult economic obstacles, limiting her golf to her spare time from her work as a registered nurse. Mrs. Meekley's husband, Robert Byers Meckley, a General Electric Company attorney in Schenectady, N.Y., died suddenly in 1929, leaving his young widow with little more than a passion for golf, and the need to earn her way for the rest of her life.
Luckily, Betty had learned to be a nurse before her marriage, although she had never worked. She spent her youth near Big Stone Gap in southwest Virginia, riding horses, swimming and playing basketball, came to Washington after high school and graduated as a registered nurse at George Washington Hospital. She learned to play golf after marrying Meckley and moving to Schenectady in 1920, and before her husband's death had already won a nun and regional titles all over the state.
The constant necessity to make a living has kept Mrs. Meckley out of so-called big-time golf, although she has made opportunities to play most of the courses in the Middle Atlantic area. During World War II, when she worked steadily at the Episcopal Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in the capital, her golf was strictly limited to weekends, and not every weekend at that. She has had neither the time nor the money to make the traditional annual tournament swings. Nevertheless, her record and her scores hang up targets some of the nationally famous golfers might envy.
Mrs. Meckley once carried the redoubtable Patty Berg to the 18th hole in the Mason-Dixon finals at White Sulphur before yielding the match by a single stroke. Another time, in a fairly big tournament, she came to the 18th all even and won the crucial hole by cleanly jumping a full stymie laid by her opponent. Fighting for the Middle Atlantic title on the Five Farms Course in Baltimore in 1935, Mrs. Meckley won her first match nine and eight, but had to carry a second to 20 holes, and a third to 21, before winning in the final on the 18th green.
Today, at 55, Mrs. Meckley is still going strong. In September, she took part in the 29th annual championship matches of the U.S. Senior Women's Golf Association, won first place with a Scotch Foursome teammate in the warm-up competition, first place in a putting contest, and tied for second place in a field of 117 in the 36-hole medal-play championship for women over 50. Twice before, in 1948 and again in 1950, she had taken first place in the same tournament in the annual Women's Senior championships.
SHE NEVER GIVES UP
For more than half her lifetime, Mrs. Meckley has lived for little else than golf; and this, as much as anything, is responsible for her success. But even such a passion for the game could not have helped her overcome the difficulties of her rigid back without the remarkable staying power which, to her opponents, is her outstanding attribute. She is known to all who have played her as a woman who never gives up.
The brace on her back has forced other things than a rigidly governed golf swing on her. She has to sleep on the floor or on a wooden board, a habit which on occasion has caused lifted eyebrows among hotel clerks who have not heard of her affliction. But for her life with this handicap, as for her game, she has a single prescription: stick to your efforts to overcome your troubles and you'll get there; or part of the way at least. Either way, says Betty Meckley, you'll find it's worth-while.