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Remembering Betsy Rawls and Marlene Hagge-Vossler


Betsy Rawls, winner of 55 LPGA tournaments including eight majors, died in October at age 95. She was one of only two golfers (the other is Mickey Wright) to have won four U.S. Women’s Open titles.

Elizabeth Earle “Betsy” Rawls was born on May 4, 1928 in Spartanburg, S.C., but grew up in Arlington, Texas. In an era when organized sports for girls were mostly nonexistent, she played some softball, but took up golf at age 17. It quickly seemed she was a natural in golf and quickly rose in the amateur ranks. While studying physics at the University of Texas at Austin, she fell under the tutelage of noted teaching professional Harvey Penick.  She won consecutive Texas Women’s Amateur titles in 1949 and 1950, while also claiming the 1949 Trans-National title and the 1950 Broadmoor Invitational. Also in 1950, she announced her arrival by finishing as runner-up to Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the U.S. Women’s Open in Wichita, Kansas. A year later, Rawls turned professional and for the next 24 years would become one of the LPGA Tour’s most dominant players. The year she joined the fledgling LPGA she agreed to assist with tournament operations and then served as the tour’s secretary, beginning a long career of leadership that accompanied her on-course endeavors.

Looking back on her storied career she shared this to USGA journal writers: “I thought I was going to be a winner and as I went along, winning became easier and easier. It was something that I expected to do. I always played well under pressure because it didn’t bother me, which is how I won so many tournaments. I didn’t take much credit for it, but I could perform under tense situations. It was my physical makeup to allow that to happen.”

Rawls evidently internalized the solid advice from her mentor, Penick. As I understand it, prior to one Open championship she was talking on the phone to Penick saying she was a bit nervous. Penick then ordered her to just “take dead aim.” That mantra would be identified with Penick for the rest of his days and several best-selling books. The gist is basically total trust: ”Once you address the ball, hitting it to the desired target must be the only thing in your life (at that time). Allow no negative thought, and focus on your goal.”

Rawls’ career was capped by enshrinement i the World Golf Hall of Fame (WGHF) in 1987 and the USGA’s Bob Jones Award in 1996. “Anyone who can make a living in golf is lucky,” Rawls once said. “Then to receive all the benefits accorded to me in the process … well, that makes me feel fortunate. It’s more than I could possibly deserve.”

Marlene Bauer (later Hagge-Vossler) was born on February 16, 1934 in Eureka, S.D., and died on May 26, 2023 at age 89. She was one of 13 founders of the LPGA in 1950. She went on to win 26 times on the LPGA Tour, including one major, the 1956 LPGA Championship, during her 40-year career. Hagge-Vossler was a teen sensation before they were commonplace in women’s golf. Her father, Dave, a one-time touring pro who became a teaching pro, moved to Long Beach, Calif. to run a driving range and do traveling exhibitions in the mid-1940s, billing his girls as The Bauer Sisters (with her sister Alice). They were well-known before the LPGA even existed. Marlene started golf at age 3 and at age 10 won the Long Beach City Boys Junior. At age 13 she won the Los Angeles City Women’s City championship and several other wins. In 1949, at 15, she became the youngest to be named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press after winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and the WWGA Junior. She and her sister Alice were the first “Glamour Girls” of the LPGA. That was 27 years before a young golfing beauty, Laura Baugh, graced the cover of Golf Digest. Both Marlene and Alice were cleverly marketed by their agent, who made sure they were always in the public eye. But Marlene said, “My dad always taught us to take things in stride and not to get things out of the proper perspective (with) a pretty good set of values.”  She was inducted into the WGHF in 2002.

Betsy Rawls, Marlene Hagge-Vossler, US Women's Open