With the arrival of spring comes the opening of the official golf season. These early March days mark each women’s golf association’s opening breakfast and a round of fun golf.

Pinehurst Country Club is no exception. The gathering room was brightly lit with the happy faces of women resisting their usual habit of warm embraces and replacing them with self-conscious elbow bumps and a nervous giggle.

The customary breakfast was followed by a delightfully informative presentation by Audrey Moriarity, executive director of the Tufts Archive. Much was learned about the Ladies of Pinehurst.

Many of the women in the room have had the life experience of moving from place to place to accommodate changing jobs or another deployment. The sounds of empathy could be heard when Audrey told the story of Mary Emma Clough Tufts, wife of James Tuft. She was asked to move from her lovely home in Boston to the barren sandy land that was Pinehurst in 1903. 

James died just seven years later, but Mary stayed along with her children until the end of her days. Pinehurst had a way, even then, to keep us here.

As we all know, golf is a huge draw to our charming village. Surprisingly, women arrived with golf clubs on their shoulders before there was a golf course. The Tufts family got busy with Donald Ross to provide the product these folks wanted.

Of course the women of that era were wearing full-length skirts, mutton-chop sleeves, high-button shoes, and a bonnet. Photographic evidence was provided. Quite the contrast to Michelle Wie’s winning outfit in 2014.

Stories were told of the amazing early women golf competitors. Glenna Collett Vare won the North & South six times in nine years starting in 1922. She also won the U.S. Women’s Amateur six times; the last time in 1935. That is quite an amateur career.

Estelle Lawson Page won the North & South seven times in 10 years starting in 1935. She also won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1936 and 1937. She almost won in 1938, but was bested by Patty Berg.

Thankfully, the field of women competitors has grown to a level that repeat wins in the major amateur tournaments are now rare.

Women of renown have been coming to Pinehurst since the beginning: Annie Oakley, Amelia Earhart, Peggy Kirk Bell, the entire founding members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. 

Women’s golf associations around the world are made possible by the generous support of women volunteers stepping up year after year to provide the structure necessary for the rest of us to just come and play our favorite games.

Meetings are held, notices written and sent, games devised, scores recorded, treasuries kept, social events planned and executed; all by the selfless volunteers (with a bit of help from the professional staffs).

We are thankful for those working today and in the past. We should all take a turn to be the next volunteer. Amateur golf does not function without its volunteers.

Take a walk in the sun … maybe carry some clubs. I hear the virus hates the sun. Fingers crossed.

Contact Betsey Mitchell at bets4golf@gmail.com.

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