Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on May 4, 1928 Betsy Rawls grew up in Arlington, Texas, and did not take up golf until she was in her late teens. As a University of Texas student, Rawls sought out Austin teacher Harvey Penick.
Rawls, a physics and math major, graduated from the University of Texas Phi Beta Kappa. She learned quickly from Penick. Four years after taking up golf, Rawls won the Texas Amateur and the Women’s Trans National. In 1950 she won the Texas Amateur again and followed up with the Broadmoor Invitational. Betsy captured 55 LPGA victories and was fourth on the list of the Tour’s leading winners.
She won eight majors and led the Tour wins in 1952, 1957, 1959. Her twenty-year career was highlighted in 1959 when she captured 10 titles and the Vare Trophy. She was the LPGA tournament director from 1975-81. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987 and was named one of Golf Magazine’s “100 Heroes” in 1988.
In the history of the women's game only five players won more LPGA Tour titles and only five players won more major championships.
- 55 LPGA Tour Victories
- 8 Major Championship Titles
- World Golf Hall of Fame Member
- 1996 Bob Jones Award
- 1949, 1950 Texas Amateur Champion
A Mind For The Game, and More
As noted in writer Ron Sirak’s tribute to Rawls she was as intelligent as she was gifted in golf, which she started playing at the age of 17. Born in Spartanburg, S.C., and raised in Austin, Texas, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas with a degree in physics and didn’t consider a golf career until Wilson Sporting Goods offered to pay her to promote its products at golf clinics.
A Pioneer in Product Endorsement
“I played golf for fun and never considered turning professional,” Rawls said. “Then I decided it would be more fun to be in golf than physics, and Wilson paid me a salary and all my expenses. They paid my expenses for 20 years. One year, I gave 120 clinics.”
And so Betsy Rawls became a spokesperson for golf equipment long before corporate sponsorship was mainstream. In fact it would be a decade before Mark McCormack had their famous handshake making McCormack the first sports agent in history and launching IMG.
The oldest and most prestigious major in the women's game is the U.S. Women's Open. In the decade from 1951 through 1960 Betsy Rawls became the Championships first four-time winner. She would be joined by legendary Mickey Wright four years later. Sixty years after that win the duo remain the only four-time champions. The feat was so important Wright she remarked “Winning the Women's Open four times and tying Betsy at four is the most important statistic in my resume. I can think of only two women who have achieved as much, not only as players but for their lifetime contributions, and that’s Betsy and Patty Berg.”
A Servant of the Game
During her playing career and after retirement Betsy Rawls used her considerable intelligence to serve the women's game. Rawls was the LPGA's president from 1961 to 1962, winning tournaments on the course while administering to the Tour off the course. Following her retirement from tournament play in 1975, she became a tournament director for the LPGA Tour. From 1987 until 2004, she was the tournament director for one of the Tour's Major Championships, the McDonald's LPGA Championship now known as the KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
The timeless swing of Betsy Rawls
A photograph of Betsy Rawls addressed to Sandra Haynie.
Rawls teeing off at the 1951 Women's Amateur at Wentworth Golf Club
Presenting the 1957 U.S. Women's Open Champion Betsy Rawls
Rawls celebrating an LPGA win in Kaimesha Lake, NY
Young Betsy Rawls
Betsy Rawls portrait
The trophy collection grows
Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational Flag
A young Betsy Rawls poses in 1956
An autograph for a young fan at the 1954 National Women's Open
University of Texas' own Betsy Rawls
Celebrating at 1957 U.S. Women's Open Champion
1953 U.S. Women's Open Champion Betsy Rawls