Babe Zaharias legacy resurfaces at U.S. Women’s Open  

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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As regular readers of this column have come to recognize, any time is a good time to dive into Babe Zaharias’ incomparable legacy. All the better when a current event provides reason to flaunt one of Babe’s amazing accomplishments.

The door was kicked open last week with the 78th U.S. Women’s Open being played for the first time at historic Pebble Beach. For the USGA to be able to stage its women’s open at Pebble was a game changer and was treated as such in the media.

Babe, being a three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, was a legitimate part of the conversation. And even more so after Golf Digest republished its 2020 list of the 18 most memorable U.S. Women’s Opens originally done on the tournament’s 75th anniversary.

The only shocker about the list was Babe’s 1954 victory was relegated to No. 2 behind Mickey Wright’s win in 1964. Zaharias fans no doubt remember her 1954 triumph came 15 months after she was diagnosed with colon cancer and told she would never play golf again.

Not only did Zaharias defy her doctors wisdom, and overcome an invasive surgery, she won by a Tigeresque 12 shots while wearing a colostomy bag and playing a grueling 36 holes the final day. Little over two years later, the cancer would take her life.

It’s hard to imagine what Golf Digest’s editors could have been thinking but rather than dwell on it, the purpose today will be a brief glimpse into what had to be the Babe’s most improbable feat. We’ll start with the lead paragraph from Will Grimsley’s 1954 Associated Press story.

“The ever-astonishing Babe Zaharias, told 15 months ago she might never play again, climaxed one of the most astonishing comebacks in sports today when she won her third women’s National Open golf championship by 12 shots.”

Typical of bodacious Babe, this was her first quote in the story.

“My prayers have been answered. I just asked the Lord to let me play again and I’d take care of the winning.”

Though she won by 12 shots, Zaharias, in her weakened state, would make bogeys on four of her final holes to finish at three-over 291. She later said she could not have walked another hole on a layout that stretched to 6,400 yards.

A few months later she would be named Female Athlete of the Year for a record sixth time. She would then spend considerable time in her remaining days openly leading the fight against cancer. It was a bold move stricken male athletes like Babe Ruth refused.

One bit of irony attached to last week’s U.S. Women’s Open seems almost poetic. The tournament was billed as the first women’s professional tournament ever played at Pebble Beach. It wasn’t.

In 1950, an event called the Weathervane Transcontinental Women’s Open was played at Pebble. The winner?

Who else? Babe Zaharias.

CHIP SHOTS: PGA Tour players with area ties, headed by Lamar ex MJ Daffue, were three for three at making the cut in the John Deere Classic. Daffue, who has made it to the weekend in 11 of his last 13 starts, shot 10-under 274 to finish tied for 35th and earn $36,947.

PNG alum Andrew Landry continued his recent solid play by posting 6-under 278 to finish T61 and pocket $16,724. Another Indian ex, Chris Stroud, finished a shot back of Landry in a tie for 63rd and collected $16,354.

All three are in the field for this week’s Barbasol Classic . . .

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, three was a tie on the front at minus 2 between the team of Tommy Bellow, Jeff Rinehart, Bob Byerly and Charlie Perez and the foursome of Jim Cady, Glenn Judice, Tony Trevino and Keith Marshall.

On the back, minus 3 won for the team of Danny Robbins, Robert Gautreaux, John House and Don MacNeil. Closest to the pin winners were Ed Holley (No. 2, 21-0) David English (No. 7, 10-2), Frank LeBlanc (No. 12, 3 inches) and Rick Pritchett (No. 15, 3-11) . . .

The Super Saturday 2 ball saw ties on both the front and back, with the team or Gautreaux, Cap Hollier, Pritchett and Dwayne Benoit figuring in both.

Tying the front at minus 2 was the team of James Shipley, Gene Jones, Larry Lee, Harrell Guidry and Ronnie Hicks. Tying the back at even was the team of Price Youngs, Gerald Huebel, George Adams and Dan Harrington . . .

Format for the Friday Senior Game was 2-man flighted best ball. Keith Mullins-Garrett Lockhart won First Flight with a 64, Aubrey Ward-Gregg Cochran claimed Second Flight with a 69, Pritchett-Stewart Ellis took Third Flight with a 72 and Marshall-Art Turner prevailed in Fourth Flight with a 77.

Closest to the pin winners were Robert Stansbury (No. 2, 6-11), MacNeil (No. 7, 3-1), Ward (No. 12, 1-9) and Joe Gongora (No. 15, 5-10) . . .

All points count was the format for the Wednesday Zaharias Dogfight. Winning with 34 points was the team of Ron LaSalle, Gongora, Perez and Turner. Placing second with 30 points was the foursome of Robbins, House, MacNeil and Rufus Reyes.

Closest to the pin winners were Derrick Lockhart (No. 2, 2-10, No. 12, 13-11), John Watson (No. 7, 9-7) and Dan Flood (No. 15, 5-7).

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