Beverly Hanson, forgotten pioneer in women's golf

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm •  Published: April 22, 2014
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It didn't take Beverly Hanson long to realize that playing golf was more rewarding than writing about it.

The pay was better, too.

Equipped with a journalism degree from North Dakota, she went to work at The Fargo Forum for 50 cents an hour and was assigned to cover a men's golf tournament. Her first byline was under the name "Ben Hanson" because the editor assumed the writer made a typo.

Then, she was playing golf in Florida that winter in 1944 when Hanson discovered lawn attendants were making more money.

"That's how I decided to be a golfer," Hanson told The Forum years later.

Hanson died April 12 in Twin Falls, Idaho, from complications of Alzheimer's and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 89.

Louise Suggs twice finished runner-up to Hanson in major championships. She's troubled that Hanson's career has largely been overlooked, even in death.

"I'm surprised nobody picked up on the fact she passed away," Suggs said Tuesday from her home in St. Augustine, Fla. "I knew Bev from the very beginning. We played amateur golf together. She was a clever person, always quick on the draw. She was a great addition to the tour."

Hanson was a key link to the formative years of the LPGA Tour, even though she was not among its 13 founding members.

The year the LPGA was formed in 1950, Hanson won the U.S. Women's Amateur at East Lake — Bobby Jones presented her the trophy — went 3-0 in the Curtis Cup and finished the year by beating Patty Berg in the Texas Women's Open as an amateur.

She won her first event after turning pro in 1951 by beating Babe Zaharias in the Eastern Open.

Hanson won 15 more times over the next decade, including three majors. That included the inaugural LPGA Championship in 1955 when she beat Suggs twice in one week. Hanson finished three shots ahead in stroke play in Fort Wayne, Ind., and then won 4 and 3 in match play between the top two medalists.

"She was a powerful hitter of the ball, and she had a powerful temper," former U.S. Women's Amateur champion Barbara Romack said Tuesday. "I remember we were paired behind their group and she hit this booming drive on the second hole, a duck hook that went down a hillside in the trees. Now she's really mad. She was walking down the fairway picking up rocks in the rough. She picked up her golf ball, unknowingly, and tossed it down the canyon in the water. She was quite a player, and quite a character."

Suggs laughed when she heard that story, and then added one of her own.

"We were in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and the front nine is very hilly," Suggs said. "She hit a ball up on the side of the mountain, and as she was addressing the ball, it started to roll. We wore skirts in those days, and I can still see her pulling her up her skirt and looking between her legs watching her ball roll away. She was the class clown, so to speak, so good-natured. She was a good kid."

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