1947 British Women’s Amateur Championship

Above left  Babe Zaharias receiving the trophy from  Marchioness of Tweeddale, 
center Mrs. Zaharias at the awards table with runner-up Miss Gordon, 
and right Babe with the 1947 British Women’s Amateur Trophy


Babe Zaharias's 1947 British Women’s Amateur Championship performance was by far one of the two most dominating golf tournaments ever played. Only Bobby Jones 1930 US Amateur performance compares. The tournament played at the Gullane Golf Club East Lothian, Scotland involved six 18 hole matches and a 36 hole final. During this time Babe missed only three fairways, and found only three bunkers. Her closet match was the quarter final match in which she defeated 2 time British Women’s Amateur Champion Frances Stephens 3 and2.

Think about that, missed only three fairways and yet what was talked about most was her distance off the tee. 

To put these amazing stats in perspective lets do a break down and calculate fairways hit the way it is done by today's LPGA and PGA. The British Women's being a match play event means in all likely hood not all the holes were completed and in Babe's case that is for sure. We have been unable to get from Gullane an actual score card so we are going to assume that the course had 4 par 3's and that they all were among the first 12 holes, therefore any skewing of the data this causes will make Babe's stats look "worse" then they really are. Should we ever come across the actual course layout at the time we will adjust our figuring accordingly.

So lets start with the first round against Helen Nimmo. Helen served in the ATS during WWII and obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel by August 1945 and was a solid amateur golfer. Babe defeated her in just 12 holes 7 and 6, resulting in 8 tee shots played to fairways.

In the second round Babe won on the 16th hole, beating Mrs Enid Sheppard 4 and 2, this round involved 12 tee shots played to fairways.

For the third round Babe was matched against 1936 Irish Champion and 2 time Curtis Cup player  Mrs. Val (Clarrie) Reddan. In 1938 Mrs. Reddan secured the only singles victory for the GB & I Curtis Cup team while playing in the US at the Essex Country Club in Massachusetts. Babe won on the 14th 6 and 5, was one over men's par at the time. This match resulted in 10 tee shots played to fairways.

The fourth round has Babe crushing former Scottish champion Mrs. Cosmo Falconer 6 and 4 mercifully ending the match on the 14th hole resulting in 10 tee shots played to fairways.

Mrs. Val (Clarrie) Reddan

Quarter final match had Mrs. Zaharias facing 2 time British Women’s Amateur Champion and 2 time runner up Frances Stephens the finishing score of 3 and 2 does not reflect the competitiveness of the match as both ladies both were even men's par after nine. Babe did finally take control at 14 with the match ending at 16. This match, like the 2nd, brought the most tee shots played to fairways in the 18 hole matches to 12.

The Semi-Final match had Babe playing favorite Jean Donald.  A WWII RAF veteran Miss Donald was the reigning French Ladies Champion as well as reigning Scottish Ladies Champion. She played on 3 Curtis Cup teams being a crucial part in the GB&I victory at Muirfield in 1952. At the end of the 13 hole crushing Babe said that "Jean clearly was not on her game today and is truly a terrific sport." Another point of view is that Babe's 7 and 5 victory was an over the top performance the like's of which the British Women’s Amateur had never seen before. With only 13 holes played only 9 tee shots were played to fairways.

The finals 36 hole match was played against at the time virtual unknown Miss Jacqueline Gordon. To the surprise of many including Babe, Miss Gordon, a WWII Sergeant serving with US Airmen in Midlands, was not only fully prepared and composed but after the morning 18 holes the match was tied. Babe broke it open though on the par 5 20th hole blasting her drive almost 100 yards beyond Miss Gordon, hitting her 3 iron approach onto the green and dropping her 8 foot putt for eagle. This overwhelming display was the beginning of the end for Miss Gordon as Mrs. Zaharias dominated the rest of the match wining 5 and 4 on the 31st hole. This match would have given Babe 23 tee shots played to fairways. 

So at minimum Babe would have had 84 tee shots played to fairways, and missed 3, so she hit a min. 81 of 84 fairways for a staggering 96.4% driving accuracy, and again all the spectators and press talked about was her tremendous distance. To put this in perspective in 2013 the PGA Tour leader in driving accuracy was Jerry Kelly at 71.81%.


Babe Zaharias hitting from the rough on the 8th hole of the afternoon 
championship round. One of 3 fairways missed during the tournament. Her opponent Miss Jacqueline Gordon, left in photo watches.

With her victory Mrs. Zaharias became the 1st American to win the British Women’s Amateur Championship. On top of that her victory "cleaned out the British golf trophy chest - every English title for which Americans may compete is now held in the United States." This after shooting a ladies record 68 at nearby Muirfield, one stroke shy of the then men's course record. 

Legend has it also that during one round on Gullane's 15th, a 540 yard par 5, Babe got home in 2 reaching the back of the green with a driver 4 iron. It was after this amazing performance the a Scottish reporter asked the Babe how she was able to generate such tremendous distance on her tee shots, her reply one of the most famous in all of women's golf made permanent Scottish Golf's love affair with Babe,  "I just loosen my girdle and let it fly". 

Shortly after the tournament Babe was offered a life membership to the Gullane Ladies Golf Association which she both graciously and immediately accepted.


To learn more about Babe Zaharias or the British Women’s Amateur Championship, continue your search here.....

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