The Female Influencers of Golf

By Mary Hafeman

image courtesy of Sirijinda

Women’s History Month! I love this month to reflect and thank all of the women that have influenced the sport of golf that I love so much.  I can’t thank them enough for all of what they have done to advance women opportunities and the game.  Because of them, I have had so many opportunities to play both Amateur and Professional Golf.  Then go to have a career in the profession of golf as PGA & LPGA golf professional.  There are so many influential women that have come before me but here are a few woman and women’s associations that have been special to me.

It all started with Mary Queen of Scots in 1552.  Mary was the first most famous women golfer that made the sport more popular.  She was an avid golfer; in fact, she called her assistants “cadets” thus the word caddie became into existence.  She played in France and was often criticized for playing too much and ignoring her royal duties.  During her reign, the famous “old course” in St. Andrews was built.

Golf was established in the early 1890’s in the USA.  Shinnecock Hills Golf Club opened its doors to women in 1891.  Along that same time frame in Chicago, a women by the name of Bessie Anthony was also learning how to play golf with her husband.  Mr. Anthony was playing in the Western Golf Association events.  Mrs. Anthony wanted to be able to compete also so while talking to her husband, they decided to create the Women’s Western Golf Association in 1901.  The WWGA was established to promote women’s amateur golf and fellowship.  This is about the same time as the USGA was established.  The WWGA was at that time really west in the country since it was established in Chicago.  I am very thankful for the vision and determination that Bessie Anthony exhibited for future women amateur golfers.  I participated in a number of WWGA championships and finally won a Championship in 1979.  It propelled my amateur career forward even to this day.  The WWGA women’s amateur has since 1901 been continuously hosting an annual championship for women golfers.  In addition, WWGA hosts Junior and Senior Championships with a voluntary women board of directors.  The WWGA Foundation was formed in the 1971 to award college scholarships to young women.  WWGA Champions include: Patty Berg, Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Stacey Lewis and many more excellent players.  Find out more at

Curtis Cup was established in 1932 by the USGA and the Ladies Golf Union. This is a bi-annual team event for women amateur golfers from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland.  The cup was named after Margaret and Harriett Curtis from Boston, Ma.  They were both avid golfers and had competed in the 1905 British Ladies Amateur where an informal match occurred between the US and British golfers.  The Curtis sisters were persistent in asking the USGA to host matches.  The Curtis sisters donated the trophy and they wanted to promote international friendships in the world of women’s golf.  Finally in 1932 the Curtis Cup matches were established and played.  The cup is inscribed “to stimulate friendly rivalry among the women golfers of many lands”.  The vision of Margaret and Harriet Curtis has given women golfers from both countries and opportunity to create friendships and lasting memories.  Today, being selected by the USGA for team membership of the Curtis Cup is the pinnacle achievement of any women amateur golfer both in the US and Great Britain and Ireland.  In 2014, the Curtis Cup will be played at St. Louis Country Club on June 6-8.  The event is open to the public free of charge.

I believe Helen and Harriett would be really pleased to see how this event has grown.  My participation on the team in 1980 was a life changing experience being able to travel to Wales to compete for the US team.  We keep our association with the event by participating in the “past players” event prior to the actual matches.  It is great fun to see fellow past players and get a chance to meet the current team members on both sides of the pond as the British women call it.   Please go to

In 1950, a group of 13 pioneer women began what we now call the LPGA Professional Tour.  Alice Bauer, Patty Berg, Bettye Danoff, Helen Detweiler, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Betty Jameson, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork, Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias.

They had the drive to want to play professional golf.  They teamed together with Wilson Sporting Goods to create the women’s tour.

I had an amazing experience at age 13 to play golf with one of the founders, Patty Berg when she came to our club in West Bend, Wisconsin to  conduct a clinic and play an exhibition.  Patty Berg was a gregarious fun loving women with a fantastic golf game.  She was a wonderful role model for me. She took the time to talk with me about golf and her life.   I was fortunate to have lunch with her and experience her professionalism and friendliness.  Then get on the course with her to see how she became all business and very competitive even in the exhibition.  After it was over with – she showed me how it was all work on the course and friends afterwards.  I will never forget that experience, that day was a key changing point for my future.  After that day, I knew I wanted to follow in Patty Berg’s steps by gaining a college scholarship and then playing professional golf on the LPGA Tour.

Playing on the LPGA tour was my ultimate goal.  I did achieve it, however I often think about how the first 13 had to work and live out of their cars to play golf.  They won very little money, helped support each other, traveled together and had fun creating a tour that now in 2014 has women from all over the world competing. We’re all moving forward!  Please visit for more information.

I would be remiss if I would not mention the MOST amazing women in my life – my MOM – my mom trail blazed the world for me and my sisters to be able to choose freely, to encourage us to have the confident to dream big and reach those dreams!  I can’t thank her enough.  She was way ahead of her time because of her encouragement from her parents.

I truly feel like all of us should check out Women in History Month. There are just so many amazing women in all fields that have made our lives that much better. By looking back it allows us to walk that much farther ahead! Thank you ladies for enriching my life, by your example, I feel it is so important to give back to our younger generation of women.  Thus my awesome association with Gen –W!


ireland_2008_165-1_full1-150x150About the Author
Mary E. Hafeman, President and Owner of Fore in One Golf Services, is a highly regarded, accomplished player, instructor and operations specialist within the golf industry. In 2009, she created Mary Hafeman Golf Experience, a web-based community to fit the needs of a growing network of people interested in all facets of the game. Mary Hafeman Golf Experience provides a realm of experiences, from exceptional golf instruction, inclusive player development programs, customized travel, tournaments and outing series, to social networking opportunities for players of all levels.  Mary is a former player on the LPGA Tour, one of the games’s “Top 50 Teachers” according to Golf for Women magazine and recognized as a ”Top Teacher” by region by Golf Magazine.