The winner of the first major held at the storied golf course that hosts this week’s US Open served up many solid lessons that still hold true today.
Her name: Geneviève Hecker.
Hecker’s victory in the US Women’s Amateur in 1902 made her the ideal person to write “Golf For Women”, the first instruction book written specifically for women. It’s a textbook that, in some ways, remains just as relevant in 2022 as it was when it was released.
Hecker’s second consecutive title in the country’s most prestigious women’s event came 11 years before Francis Ouimet put golf on the map in America by winning the US Open at the Country Club. Her win came seven decades before Title IX would forever change the landscape for women in sports in the United States.
It was Hecker, not Ouimet, who was the first national champion of any kind to be crowned at the Country Club. At the time, golf was a diversion from the main activities of the club, which included horse racing, polo and ice skating.
“When you have someone like Genevieve, who turns 18 and becomes a fairly accomplished player, she’s automatically become one of the best in the country and could compete with some of the best in the world,” Michael said. Trostel, a USGA historian.
Hecker’s book came out in 1904. Cost: $2. Magazine advertisements of the time touted the book as a must-read for the several thousand female golf enthusiasts across the country.
“No player, no matter how skillful, can fail to benefit from careful study of this one,” said a review in the New York Post.
Other reviewers also assured readers that the advice “will also be useful for men”.
Although other instructional books have achieved greater fame – think Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons” and Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book” – none have quite the history or pioneering status of 217 pages of Hecker.
Very few people in the early 20th century had reason to believe that women’s golf had a large following – a reality Hecker acknowledged in her introduction.
She called her “so comparatively unimportant that no woman felt it incumbent on her to blaze the trail, so to speak, for her tottering but eager sisters”.
“Fortunately, that time is now over, and it’s gone never to return,” she concluded.
And yet, women’s golf still had a long way to go.
The first US Women’s Open wasn’t played until 1946. Professional women’s golf didn’t really begin until the mid-1940s, and the LPGA Tour wasn’t founded until 1950.
In the early 1900s, the women’s game was an amateur pursuit played by several dozen highly skilled players at clubs mostly scattered around the East Coast and Chicago.
It was a far cry from the golf-shorts-and-shirts-comfort feast it is today. Images and illustrations from “Golf For Women” show women demonstrating different parts of the golf swing while wearing ankle-length skirts with long-sleeved blouses buttoned up to the neck. Some wear a tie. (The men didn’t have it much better. They were still hanging out in breeches and ties.)
Some of Hecker’s lessons, however, could have been ripped from a 2022 golf magazine. The book is filled with timeless tips that remind us that, however difficult the game may be, some concepts are still alarmingly simple:
—On the well-known amateur penchant for not hitting enough of a club to reach the green or clear a hazard: “It is much easier to play a shot correctly that would easily cover distance than to play it with a club with which one must press.”
-By putting: “One of the truest and best-known axioms… ‘Never stand up, never in.'”
— On playing fast: “Anyone who has been subjected to the annoyance of waiting and waiting after every shot, while someone a few hundred yards in front of them suffers half a dozen insignificant swings, will approve , I think, most warmly all I said.”
Hecker’s success at the links, not to mention the fame she gained while writing the book, made her a household name in golf circles.
When she married renowned gambler Charles Stout in 1903, the New York Times wedding announcement included a headline that called the union “romance on ties.” Hecker took a break from competitive golf for nearly two decades while she had children. When, in 1925, she won a New York Women’s Metropolitan Golf event at Siwanoy Country Club at age 41, The Times called it “one of the most remarkable comebacks in golf history”.
The book’s potential audience, meanwhile, grew after Ouimet’s decisive victory at the Country Club in 1913. players over the next decade.
Nearly 120 years after the book’s release, approximately 25 million people play golf in America. About a quarter of that total are women, and the future is bright.
According to the National Golf Foundation, girls’ golf in the United States is growing at a faster rate than boys’. Girls made up only 17% of junior golfers in 1995. Last year, they made up one-third of junior golfers.
Almost anyone, woman or man, would struggle not to find at least a few useful snippets in “Golf For Women.” The book also included a few words that might come in handy for the 156 players trying to follow in his footsteps and become USGA champion at the Country Club this week.
“To be a successful tournament player, no matter how skilled,” she writes, “it’s essential to be able to seize the moment and ‘play better than you know how to,’ as the newspapers say. athletes, when the occasion requires it.
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