Babe Didrikson Zaharias: If you like winter sports, you’ll love this story

Written by Staff Writer

Written by Staff Writer

Meet “the greatest all-sport athlete” of all time. That iconic moniker must have resonated with the original recipient, none other than Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Her life has been a story of talent, drama and all-out struggle. The connection to a nation was in her blood, given her great-grandfather hailed from Ireland. She would represent America in competitive figure skating and figure skiing, won her first championship in the long jump in 1926, and the bronze medal in that event at the 1912 Olympics.

The skater’s most incredible feat came in 1928, when at 37 years old, she won the U.S. women’s amateur championship in golf.

But it wasn’t simply an amateur tournament. She was making a massive commitment to America’s national sport, one that had suddenly gained popularity in their waning days of prohibition.

While she was wining and dining the rich and famous, the men were taking their victories in another sport away from her…

Due to new legislation, the United States Golf Association required a handicap for amateur golfers. That meant a golfer had to either carry the same number of clubs as professional golfers, or be ranked among the top 90 at a club. Although didrikson was not ranked among the top 90, she called it her “absolute biggest fear.”

That fear manifested itself on the first day of play. Despite the snow and icy conditions, she shot rounds of 74, 77 and 77, with a five-shot lead on the field. Her total score of 222–20 strokes off the winning score–gave her the title.

One expert called her the “Rosie the Riveter of golf.” Later, after her story became the stuff of legend, there was some question about the validity of the victory. Didrikson claimed she was ineligible to win the amateur tournament since she had already competed in a U.S. Women’s Open tournament in 1931.

Unfortunately, at the time the golf club’s competition committee reversed their decision, claiming she was only illegally competing for money. Didrikson went on to play professional golf in the 1930s, eventually retiring at age 48.

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