We left our Golden Girls of the Greens caravanning down the highway with their last tournament stop in the rear-view mirror and their next adventure awaiting them on the horizon. (If you haven’t read The Traveling Sisterhood click here and catch up!)
Many of these women hit the road at the start of the season and didn’t go home until after the final event of the year, racking up thousands of miles traveling across the country and back. They (literally) would pack up their lives into as many suitcases as they could fit in the trunk of their cars. In her book entitled The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf, the late historian and journalist Rhonda Glenn described it this way:
“The big cars were comfortable and had trunk space for three suitcases (one for winter clothes, one for summer clothes, one for dress clothes), golf clubs, dozens of pairs of golf shoes, a small ironing board, iron, briefcase, record player, typewriter, a charcoal grill, pots and pans, hair dryers, shag bag, and a gross of golf balls. A few players had guitars, and several traveled with cats or dogs.”
Marilynn Smith was a perfect choice for pre-tournament publicity. Her infectious personality and love for the game roped in anyone who was watching or listening.
These women shared cooking and laundry duties on the road. Once they pulled into their next tournament town, they each were given additional responsibilities to make sure that the event got up and running and that people knew they were in town. Course set-up, tournament operations, player registration, pairings, pro-am, and local public relations were all things the players needed to worry about before they ever walked to the first tee.
(Pictured left) Babe Zaharias was one of the LPGA Tour’s most popular players. She had a powerful game and equally powerful personality that drew large galleries wherever she played.
I can just see these pioneers sitting around the dinner table, or maybe a large picnic table at a campground between tournament stops, checklist laid out in front of them, calling out names and divvying out duties. ‘Marilynn, you take the local TV circuit this week. Babe, the mayor is playing with you in the pro-am so be sure to let him out drive you at least once, will ya? Patty, we’re counting on you to bring in the locals for your clinic. Shirley, Betty, Marlene, Alice – we need entertainment at the pro-am party so see what you can put together.’
Small but mighty, Patty Berg became well known for her highly entertaining golf clinics. Patty kept up those clinics long after she retired from competition – serving as one of the LPGA’s loudest and proudest ambassadors.
Week after weary week, these players pulled into towns, large and small, and popped up the LPGA Tent for all to see – doing whatever was necessary to spread the word about women’s professional golf. One year passed, then two and three. A few sponsors came and went. Babe died in 1956 leaving the Tour without one of its biggest stars. But that did not detour the mission. Before long, they were able to look back on a decade of women’s professional golf.
The LPGA Tour had survived, and thrived actually, and was looking forward to what progress could be made in the next 10 years.