A Founder’s View on the LPGA, Marilynn Smith

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A Founder’s View on the LPGA, Marilynn Smith

One of the 13 original Founders of the LPGA, Marilynn Smith, shares her journey to golf and what she thinks about the future of the game
LPGA Founder Marilynn Smith
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Written By:

Summer Anderson

Summer Anderson is a mother, wife, writer and longtime lover of the game of golf. Her passion lies in writing from the heart, and on topics that are most important to the Millennial generation. Her work has been featured on various websites related to golf, motherhood, and entrepreneurship.

In preparation for the LPGA Founders Cup, pioneer of women’s golf and a founder of the LPGA, Marilynn Smith, took some time to answer questions for the LPGA women’s network.

A woman who has impacted the game of golf by keeping it alive for women players, Smith now dedicates her time and efforts to raising scholarship funds for women players; an opportunity that she was never given during her era. Below is what she had to say about golf, the hard work it took to make the LPGA what it is today, and the advice she offers to women who are hesitant to start playing.

 

1. What drew you to the game of golf?

When I was 12 years old I was the owner, coach, and manager of local boy’s baseball team. I came home one day quite frustrated and used a word I shouldn’t have (one I also picked up from the boys). My mother immediately took me to the bathroom and washed my mouth out with soap. When my father got home, she told him the story of what happened and the language I used.

At that point, my father took me to the local country club and said that I needed to play a sport that was more ladylike. I had always taken golf to be a ‘sissy sport’, as baseball was my favorite sport to play at the time. As soon as my father had me on the driving range, my love of golf started, and I have never looked back.

Golf is still a huge part of my life even though I no longer play it. I now put all my attention and focus on my Pro-Am tournament. The goal of my event is to raise scholarship money to give to five women golfers who are pursuing college. I was never given that opportunity when I went to University of Kansas years ago. In fact, the Dean of the college said that if I was a boy then he could help me, but because I was a girl, then no funds were available to me. I want to make sure that women golfers don’t ever have to face that same hurdle that I did when I was their age.

 

2. What motivated you to continue playing, particularly during a time when women really weren’t welcome to play?

I was blessed as I was sponsored by golfing company, Spaulding, for $5,000 a year. They gave me unlimited expenses, a car to drive around in, and baseball mitts. I personally requested the baseball mitts, because the golf caddies and I would play catch during breaks on the golf course. I also got the chance to travel and meet six U.S. Presidents during my golfing tenure (Eisenhower, G.W. Bush, Nixon, Ford, JFK and President Trump back in 2006). The experiences I made, and the people I met, were always enough to keep me attached to the game of golf.

The LPGA also added the teaching division in 1958, which finally passed after failing to go through the year before. I wanted to see that division thrive, and it gave me the passion to keep the game going for future women players.

 

3. What would others find interesting to learn about golf’s first professional, female players?

I can say that I saw some of the best female players in golf during my competition years. Babe Zaharias changed the game of golf for women. She was an Olympic champion who drew in galleries of people to come out and watch her play. When she died of cancer in 1956, we were left to figure out how to sustain ourselves and women’s professional golf.

After Babe’s death, many of us women golfers went out to other sporting events, such as baseball games or boxing matches, to promote women’s golf tournaments. We had to work hard to make women’s golf and the LPGA what it is today.

 

4. Tell us about your worst and best golf experience.

I am a people person. Throughout my golfing tenure, I have gotten to meet some of the best people in my life. My fondest memories were of those individuals who helped make our golf tournaments a success, and their desire to keep the game going for women.

I am also blessed in that I don’t have a bad experience in golf that I can recall. The game has been so good to me, and all I have is fond memories of playing it with the women who I call my family.

I will say that most memorable moments was introducing the late President Eisenhower at an LPGA event. My uncle was Governor of Kansas at the time, so when I went to introduce President Eisenhower, I announced myself as Governor Arn’s niece and not as the President of the LPGA.

 

5. What advice would you give to a woman hesitant to try golf?

The most important bit of advice that I can give is to go to the driving range and take lessons when first starting off. Golf is a humbling game, so it’s important to get a feel of it before going out and playing it on the golf course. I also recommend learning about golf etiquette and its safety precautions when first trying out the game.

Golf teaches you a lot about life and yourself. Do not be hesitant to try it, as golf can be something whose lessons will last a lifetime and be applicable long after you leave the golf course.

5 Comments

  1. Janet Szeliga says:

    Dear Marilynn, I saw you play golf at Willow Grove ,Pa and admired you because of your sunk and professionalism you show me and many more. You are admired and I even have your autograph
    On a cap I wore to that event. Be blessed with your spirit
    And believe me I have thought of you often and was hopeful you were in good health.

  2. Tammy Shields says:

    Dear Marilynn
    Thank you for your hard work in getting women’s golf off the ground. I love watching the players on the LPGA tour today. Thank you for sticking to it and helping create the LPGA.

  3. Lorraine Abbott says:

    Marilynn, you will be in my golfing heart forever. Way back when I was following you I remember that little rabbit’s foot charm hanging from your belt – and you always invited the crowd into your practice sessions, as if we could give you instruction how to hit a shot or evaluate your swing! That blew me away! You always were, are, and will still be one of our most valuable ambassadors of women’s golf, Marilynn…a highlight among the many who inspired me over the years to serve the game through teaching and administering through the National Golf Foundation’s educational programs. Blessings always! Lorraine Abbott

  4. Jane schnoor says:

    There will never be women golfers like you and your fellow golfers, Marilyn. I know your Era is passing , but so different than the women today who play and compete in the LPGA. US amateur gals have learned so much from you whether it is the game itself or life long qualities to live by. Thanks for all this and more. Blessings to you.

  5. Sharon Miller says:

    ” Smitty” you are all the above and so much more!!! I enjoyed my time on tour with you and cherish our on going friendship. You are one special lady!

    Always my best to you.

    Sharon Miller

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