The Women of Pebble Beach

By James A. Frank

Women at Del Monte Golf Course in 1902

 

Women have been active participants in all that Pebble Beach offers since its earliest days. When the Del Monte Golf Course—the first in the area—opened on May 1, 1897, some of the very first players on the course were women. Starting the following year, the Del Monte course began hosting the Del Monte Women’s Championships, a popular and prestigious tournament that ran almost continuously until 1953. The Del Monte course also was a three-time host of the California Women’s Amateur event in its early years after the start of the 20th century.

Among the notable champions of those events were Edith Chesebrough VanAntwerp—who won the Del Monte six times between 1911-23—and Babe Zaharias (1943). In 1941, the Del Monte winner was Marion Hollins, whose association with Pebble Beach began in the late 1910s when she first visited from the east coast.

Hollins won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1921, and a few years later began working with the Del Monte Properties Company, which was developing the peninsula for leisure and real estate. Her idea was to build a private club on 150 acres along a coastal spot known as Cypress Point, and she hired Seth Raynor to produce a routing. But after he died unexpectedly, Hollins turned to Alister MacKenzie and together they created what remains one of the world’s most greatly admired designs.

Hollins also was instrumental in the Pebble Beach Championship for Women, which she helped found and won seven times between its first playing in 1923 and 1942. It was staged until 1951 and held on Pebble Beach Golf Links all but twice. Hollins also finished runner-up six times, meaning she was in the finals 13 of the 27 times it was played! In 1946, after a two-year hiatus for World War II, the Championship resumed and was won by Patty Berg, who five months later would win the first U.S. Women’s Open. Berg also won at Pebble Beach in 1947.

Marion Hollins (left) at Pebble Beach in 1924

 

The first major women’s championship at Pebble Beach was the 1940 Women’s National Amateur. It was only the second time the event was held on the west coast, and was taken by Betty Jameson, who’d also won it the year before and became one of the founders of the LPGA. The Women’s Amateur returned to Pebble Beach in 1948, while the Senior Women’s Amateur was played at Monterey Peninsula CC in 1968 and 1976. And in 1952, one of the most significant careers in women’s golf began when 17-year-old Mickey Wright came from San Diego to Pebble Beach to win her first national title, the Girls’ Junior at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

The newly formed LPGA played its first tournaments in 1950, including the Weathervane Transcontinental Women’s Open Golf Championship, comprised of four two-round events over subsequent weekends at different courses across the country. Its $17,000 purse was the richest on the circuit, and it began in late April at Pebble Beach. A mix of amateurs and professionals competed, led by Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Berg, and Jameson. The first year, Zaharias won at Pebble Beach and won the overall tournament, which came with a $5,000 bonus prize; five of the top 10 finishers at Pebble Beach were amateurs. In 1951, Berg opened with a win at Pebble Beach and won the overall. The Weathervane lasted two more years, but without a Monterey-area course in the rotation.

From 1967-86, Pebble Beach hosted the California Women’s Amateur, which always boasted an impressive field. Among the winners were a number of future pros, including Shelley Hamlin, Amy Alcott, Patty Sheehan, and Juli Inkster. And an LPGA player accounted for one more significant victory at Pebble Beach. The TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational—which began under a different name in 1972 but has been played every year since—matches amateurs and pros from the men’s, seniors’, and women’s tours over a collection of courses, with Pebble Beach in the mix since 1980. In 1990, Juli Inkster was the first, and so far only, woman to take the title.

But they’ll have another chance in 2023 when the U.S. Women’s Open comes to Pebble Beach Golf Links for the very first time.

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