Mary, Queen of Scots Female Pioneer of Women’s Golf
It is human nature to think that everything that relates to us started a generation or two back at most. At least, when we look back, thatâ€™s about how far we see. Anything past that requires investigation. The LPGA was established around the middle of the last century by the female pioneers of the game, right? Letâ€™s go back a little further. The history of womenâ€™s golf, at least in the western world, begins in the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. Itâ€™s too bad that she didnâ€™t handle her politics with the English Queen as well as she did the golf course, because she was one dynamite first commissioner. I do have a little trouble envisioning Mary out on the links making a full swing in that big olâ€™ dress, but apparently, she managed it.
For starters, she invented the word â€œcaddie,â€ calling her assistants â€œcadets.â€ During her reign, the club and course at St. Andrews was built, and I canâ€™t help but think that she had something to do with it. Iâ€™m sure she was allowed to play the course if she wanted, but precious few other women got to set foot on it. Still, in 1867, it was good old St. Andrews that opened the first ladies golf club in history, so we canâ€™t harp too much on Scottish conservatism where womenâ€™s rights are concerned.
Of course, another club in Scotland beat that by putting together the first womenâ€™s tournament in 1811. Think about it, thatâ€™s 35 years after the American Revolution, and Iâ€™m pretty sure at least three or four generations before Mickey, Patty and the Babe. Some visionary was really on the ball, and they made such a success out of it that a nine-hole course was built just for the women.
The first tournament for women in the states was in Morristown, New Jersey, later called the Morris Golf Country Club. Following a string of popular successes, the Meadow Brook Club of Hempstead, Long Island hosted the first U.S. Womenâ€™s Amateur in 1894. No automobiles on the road yet.
In 1891, Shinnecock Hills became the first club to admit women. Hold on Lydia and Lexi â€“ we havenâ€™t even gotten to the Wright brothers. In the same year, the Amateur Golf Association of the United States was established, later renamed as the United States Golf Association, the USGA, the head honcho, the rule-book people, preservers of the game.
By 1917, the womenâ€™s committee of the USGA was formed. The Curtis Cup had its first go in 1932, with the US winning, and they never looked backâ€¦or changed the format. They got it right the first time. In 1934, Helen Hicks became the first pro, even though there were no pro tournaments â€“ thatâ€™s gutsy. In 1944, the Womenâ€™s Professional Golf Association came into being, replaced by the LPGA six years later â€“ thatâ€™s your cue, Mickey, Patty and Babe.
In â€™61, Louise Suggs won ten grand at the Palm Beach Par 3 Tournament, and beat ten men doing it â€“ for that time, an ouch. The â€™63 U.S. Womenâ€™s Open was televised, and Judy Rankin won over $100,000. Can you feel all of this snowballing, just because a stressed-out royal had to get out into nature and hit something as far and as oftenÂ as she could?
In â€™77, the PGA was opened for women. Then came Solheim andâ€¦enter Paula, Morgan and friends. For all you professionals on the womenâ€™s tour, young and old, active or retired, letâ€™s have a round of applause for the greatest commissioner ever â€“ Mary, Queen of Scots.