Elizabeth May “Betty” Jameson
Written by Tyler Conlin
“Generations of women have benefited from her dedication, vision and sacrifice.” These strong words were said by LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens about the late Betty Jameson. Jameson is one of the most revered female golfers in history and is someone with strong ties to the City of Austin. An inductee to the World Golf Hall of Fame and Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, Jameson was instrumental in not only spreading women’s involvement in golf, but she also opened up opportunities for women in all sports by breaking gender barriers. She set numerous records and won multiple tournaments over the course of her forty-year career. As one of the thirteen original founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Jameson solidified herself as a pioneer and role model.
[List of Accomplishments]
- 1932- Dallas City Champion, Women’s Public Golf Links Champion of Texas, Lakewood Country Club Women’s Golf Champion
- 1933- First Dallas female to compete in varsity sports
- 1934- Winner of Southern Women’s Championship
- 1937 to 1939- Three consecutive Women’s State Titles
- 1938- Attended University of Texas, Winner of Women’s Intramural Golf Championship
- 1939 to 1940- Back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateur Winner
- 1942- Won the Western Open (major) as an amateur and the Western Amateur Tournament
- 1945- Turned professional.
- 1947- Won the U.S. Women’s Open
- 1950- One of the 13 LPGA founders
- 1954- Won the Western Open.
- 1955- Winner of Sarasota Women’s Open, Babe Zaharias Golf Tournament, Hot Springs Four-Ball Women’s Golf Tournament (paired with Mary Lena Faulk), and White Mountain Women’s Open Golf Championship
- 1958- Winner of Hot Springs Four-Ball Golf Tournament (paired with Mary Lena Faulk)
- 1967- One of the six inaugural inductees of the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame; the LPGA recognized her induction year into the Hall of Fame of Women’s Golf (1951) as her official induction year into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame
Start of Something Big
Betty Jameson was born in Norman, Oklahoma on May 9, 1919, grew up in Dallas and later moved to San Antonio. Jameson was originally fascinated by the game of tennis, but she was unable to find anyone to play with her. Since she couldn’t find a playing partner, she took up golf and never looked back. She would soon embark on an amateur career that would be as groundbreaking as it was successful.
Betty didn’t take long to make a splash on the Texas golf scene, taking veteran Florence Lipman to twenty-one holes in the quarterfinals of the Texas Women’s Municipal Golf Association Tournament in Dallas at only the age of 12. It would be only one year later that the world would get its first glimpse of the greatness that was Betty Jameson’s golf game. In 1932, at the age of 13, Betty would go on a tear through the amateur circuit. By the time the year came to an end, Jameson had taken home the title of Lakewood Country Club Women’s Golf Champion, Dallas City Champion, and her first State Championship. It would be this impressive play that would catapult her into becoming the first women in history to represent a Dallas high school varsity sports team. She made the Sunset High golf team by shooting an 82 at the tryouts held at Stevens Park municipal course, which was the third best score among all twenty-seven players.
Breaking the gender barrier wouldn’t be the only thing that Betty would shatter as a youngster. She broke the Dallas Country Club course record by shooting a 72 in the second round of the 1934 Women’s Texas Golf Association tournament. Her performance was described by professional golfers George Aulback and Larry Nabholtz as “one of the finest rounds turned in by a feminine player anywhere, anytime.” This is made even more impressive by the fact that Betty was only fourteen years old. Jameson would go on to win the Southern Women’s championship held in New Orleans that same year, and become the only female golfer to be named to compete in the high school individual championship golf tournament in Dallas. Betty would have gone up against the best male golfers in the city to vie for the title, but she unfortunately was forced to withdraw due to an illness before the start of the tournament.
Learning from the Best
Coming off her second State Title in 1937, Betty would take the next step in her career by attending the University of Texas and becoming a pupil of Harvey Penick. Despite the fact that there was no women’s golf team at the time, Penick saw the potential in Jameson and took her under his wing. During her time at UT, Betty joined the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and would win the 1938 Women’s Intramural Golf Title.
Betty would take everything she learned from her time at Texas and continue her dominance of the State Championship, winning her third and fourth titles in 1938 and 1939. 1939 was a solid year for Betty as she would add to her success by setting a new course record for the Austin Country Club during the 43rd Women’s Texas Golf Association Championship by shooting a 71. She also would become the first Texan in history to win the National Women’s amateur golf championship. Jameson came up big on this national stage by sinking a 28-foot birdie putt in front of a 1,200 person gallery on the last hole to win the tournament. Trophy presenter and president of the U.S.G.A., Archie Reid, told Jameson, “You’ve proven yourself a great champion. I’ve never seen a better exhibition of golf and cool nerves than you displayed today.”
Jameson poses with the Robert F. Cox Cup, center, a trophy she won as the U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion in 1939 and 1940.
Betty would prove herself even more by repeating as the National Women’s golf champion in 1940 by defeating hometown favorite Clara Callender in California in the semi-finals of the event. She would go on to win the title by pushing past Jane Cothran in the finals. Two years later, Jameson would become the first woman to win the Western Open (a major championship at that time) as an amateur, as well as the Western Amateur title in the same year.
Professional “Glamour Girl”
Betty Jameson would cofound the predecessor of the LPGA, the Women’s Professional Golf Association in 1944, and in 1945 Betty was hired by Spalding to conduct golfing clinics around the country, effectively making her a professional golfer. She was now one of the so-called “glamour girls” because the media outlets loved taking pictures of the female golfers. As a pro, Betty quickly made her mark by becoming the first female golfer to score a sub-300 score in a 72-hole tournament on her way to winning the 1947 U.S. Women’s Open. Her final score was a six-under par 295 and she took home $1,200 in prize money. She would go on to win the $3,000 prize as the winner of the 1948 Tampa Women’s Open. This tournament was a disaster for most, as the tournament was held in hard rain and bitter cold. However, it was a walk in the park for Betty as she took a wire-to-wire win with her closest competitor, Louise Suggs, five strokes behind her.
The most important contribution to the game that Jameson made came in 1950 when she was one of the founders of the LPGA. With this association up and running, female golfers all around the country (and eventually, the world) would be able to look forward to becoming true professionals. It was the Jameson’s idea to create a special trophy to the tour’s lowest scorer for each year, and she even donated the hardware which she named after hero, Glenna Collett Vare. The Vare Trophy is still given out to this day by the LPGA. She may not have realized it at the time because she was too busy dominating the tour in its early years, but a large part of her legacy would come from the creation of this new organization.
Despite having just provided the most important groundwork for feminine opportunity in the game of golf, Jameson was still focused on winning tournaments. In 1952 she won the Corpus Christi Tournament, Bakersfield Open, and the “World Championship”. After an 18-month winless drought, a span in which she finished second in three of her last four tournaments, Jameson again met Louise Suggs. Their duel this time would come in the 1954 Women’s Western Open. Betty would defeat the defending champion Suggs by riding her accurate chip shots and hot wedge to a $1,000 prize.
Betty’s win in the Western Open opened the floodgates for the 1955 season. Betty won four tournaments on the pro circuit taking home over $11,000 for the year. Her streak started in the Sarasota Women’s Open, winning by two strokes by shooting a 285 and setting a new women’s tournament record for a par 72 course. She then went on to shoot an amazing 8-under par 65 in the Babe Zaharias Golf Tournament held at the Beaumont Country Club, eventually winning the tournament by 8 strokes. Jameson’s third win would come when she paired with Mary Lena Faulk to take home top prize money in the Hot Springs Four-Ball Women’s Golf Tournament in Virginia. She would finish the year strong by taking home the $5,000 grand prize by winning the White Mountain Women’s Open Golf Championship in New Hampshire, defeating Faye Crocker by 4 strokes.
1955 would be the final time that Jameson dominated women’s golf, but she was definitely not finished. In 1956 she was an advocate in an attempt to get the Southwest Conference to recognize women’s golf as a collegiate sport and in 1958 she again paired with Mary Lena Faulk to make a huge comeback in the Hot Springs Four-Ball Golf Tournament, winning in a playoff to take home the huge $7,500 prize. Unfortunately for the world of golf, Jameson lost a lot of interest in continuing her career during this time and would retire for good in 1970 after finishing tied for 49th in her final event, the Burdine Invitational.
Hall of Fame Person
Jameson continued to stay involved in the world of golf as a teacher, and was inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame in 1967 as one of the six inaugural inductees. She would also go on to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame in 1999. Lawson Little of the World Golf Hall of Fame said of Jameson, “Jameson had the soundest swing, the best pivot and the greatest follow through of the hips of any woman player except Joyce Wethered.” Her extraordinary talents and pure skill lead to her becoming one of the most successful female golfers in history, but her contributions to the game off the greens equal, and perhaps surpassed her amazing career.
Betty Jameson died on February 7, 2009 after enjoying her modest later years by painting. Her playing partner, JoAnn Prentice, was quoted in 1999 as saying that Jameson once asked her to mark her ball on the green as she prepared to play a shot from 175 yards out because “it was in her line.” Those of us that came after Betty Jameson are lucky that making that shot wasn’t the only thing she had her sights set on.
- AP. "Betty Jameson, Former Dallas Girl, Annexes National Golf Championship." Dallas Morning News 27 Aug. 1939, IV sec.: 3. Print.
- AP. "Betty Jameson Wins Tourney." Dallas Morning News 25 June 1932, sec. I: 8. Print.
- AP. "Jameson Cops Title in Western." Dallas Morning News 20 June 1954, II sec.: 1. Print.
- AP. "Jameson, Cothran Gain Golf Finals." Dallas Morning News 28 Sept. 1940, II sec.: 4. Print.
- AP. "Jameson Duo Cops 4-Ball." Dallas Morning News 25 July 1955, sec. I: 19. Print.
- AP. "Jameson Is Winner in Tampa Tourney." Dallas Morning News 19 Jan. 1948, II sec.: 4. Print.
- AP. "Jameson Is Winner of Golf Title." Dallas Morning News 30 June 1947, sec. I: 13. Print.
- AP. "Jameson Wins At Sarasota." Dallas Morning News 28 Feb. 1955, sec. I: 16. Print.
- AP. "Jameson's 65 New Record." Dallas Morning News 16 Apr. 1955, sec. I: 10. Print.
- AP. "Vet Team Wins 4-Ball in Play Off." Dallas Morning News 21 July 1958, II sec.: 2. Print.
- "Betty Jameson Bio." LPGA.com. LPGA, n.d. Web. 27 June 2012. <http://www.lpga.com/golf/players/j/betty-jameson/bio.aspx>.
- "Betty Jameson Turns In 82 at Stevens to Make Sunset Team." Dallas Morning News 5 Mar. 1933, II sec.: 2. Print.
- Davis, Victor. "Betty Jameson, 13, Crowned City Municipal Champ With 2-1 Win Over Mrs. Stafford." Dallas Morning News 21 May 1932, sec. I: 4. Print.
- Davis, Victor. "Jameson Breaks Course Record in State Tournament." Dallas Morning News 24 May 1934, II sec.: 5. Print.
- "Defeat of Medalist Features Wednesday’s Play in Women’s State Meet at Tenison Park." Dallas Morning News 25 June 1931, II sec.: 2. Print.
- "Favorites Annex First Round Tilts In Lakewood Meet." Dallas Morning News 25 Oct. 1933, sec. I: 13. Print.
- Glenn, Rhonda. "USGA: Three-Time USGA Champion LPGA Founder Jameson Dies." USGA.org. USGA, 8 Feb. 2009. Web. 27 June 2012. <http://www.usga.org/news/2009/February/Three-Time-USGA-Champion-LPGA-Founder-Jameson-Dies/>.
- "Hart, Forest Lad, Wins Model As High Golf Tourney Opens." Dallas Morning News 5 June 1934, II sec.: 4. Print.
- Kelley, Brent. "Betty Jameson." About.com Golf. The New York Times Company, n.d. Web. 27 June 2012. <http://golf.about.com/od/golferswomen/p/betty_jameson.htm>.
- Litsky, Frank. "Betty Jameson, an L.P.G.A. Founder, Dies at 89." The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 27 June 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/sports/golf/10jameson.html?_r=2>.
- Mildred Bettis Scrapbook. Stark Center Archives, “Page 2”. University of Texas at Austin
- Also used from this collection:
- “Page 3”
- “Page 4”
- “Page 5-1”
- “Page 17-1”
- Also used from this collection: