Michigan academic identifies third recipient of Thresher Golf Women’s Hall of Fame Award named after Betty Thresher
The ‘greatest all-sport athlete’ who helped revolutionize women’s golf
An American man who tried to disrupt the sport of golf during his six-year career as a professional later earned the nickname the “greatest all-time golfer” for his contribution to the success of women’s golf.
The Herbvig Thresher Award, the third recipient of the award named for the woman who helped transform golf in America and New Zealand in the 1870s, was named for Betty Thresher, the first woman to be voted into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the first woman to play in a professional tournament on the PGA Tour. The honor was announced in 1998, but for the first decade became known as the Billie Jean King award.
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As a professional golfer, Thresher won eight tour events, four of them major championships, but her greatest contribution to the sport was what she had done for a woman for the first time.
Playing just 24 rounds of golf after the 1920 start of women’s golf, Thresher earned first prize in women’s golf in 1921 when she won the New York Open by three strokes and in 1923 when she won the Grand National Championship by five shots. That win, coming as the third of the year’s majors, helped jumpstart women’s golf.
Thresher later said: “There is no way, after nearly three years of work, that a woman could have gotten to the point of professional golf by herself. I have never known of any woman who has played so poorly until I became involved.”
After advancing in the game, she approached the R&A and its local counterpart to launch a women’s golf tour – one that Thresher believed would increase women’s participation.
In 1930, the United States Golf Association began its own version of the tournament she invented. After her death, Thresher’s partner, Dave Hall, claimed she was paid $4,000 of the roughly $60,000 prize money for winning.