Winner of 55 LPGA events, including eight major championships, Betsy Rawls won the 1949 Texas Amateur Championship just four years after taking up golf at age 17, and then repeated again in 1950. She is ranked fourth in LPGA careers wins behind Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Patty Berg, all who are previous Memorial Tournament honorees.
Rawls joined the LPGA Tour in 1951 after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas. She won three events that year, including the U.S. Women’s Open. In 1952, she was the tour’s leading money winner. From 1951–1962, Rawls won multiple events each year, then in 1959, captured an amazing 10 titles and earned the Vare Trophy during a season in which she set a money-winnings record. The next year, she was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame.
When Rawls joined the tour, it consisted of about 20 players and 20 tournaments. She served under the legendary Bade Zaharias as LPGA secretary, and also headed the tournament committee that set up the courses, gave rulings, made pairings, kept statistics, did bookkeeping and performed many other duties. During the rest of the year, she typically traveled the country by car with Patty Berg, the two sharing about 120 golf clinics annually.
After retiring in 1975, Rawls began a six-year tenure as the LPGA’s tournament director and head rules official. She was also the first woman to serve on the Rules Committee for the men’s U.S. Open.
In 1995, Rawls received the Sprint Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1996 won the USGA’s highly prized Bob Jones Award for distinguished service. Rawls lives in Wilmington, Delaware, where she served as Executive Director of the McDonald’s LPGA Championship for 23 years. Rawls recently retired and now serves as Vice Chairman of the Board.
Winner of two U.S. Open Championships and the Masters Tournament, Cary Middlecoff collected 37 titles during a career that begun only after he gave up practicing dentistry in favor of playing professional tournament golf.
Born in Halls, Tennessee, Middlecoff won his state amateur championship four straight years (1940-43), a collegiate tournament by 29 strokes while at the University of Mississippi, and was the first amateur to win the North and South Open while playing the tournament in 1945 with star professionals Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. After serving in the military practicing dentistry, he decided in 1947 to give the pro circuit a try. After turning professional in 1947, he shot a final round 62 at the Charlotte Open in only his third tournament, and won. At that point, he decided to forego dentistry for good to pursue a full-time competitive career.
Two years later, Middlecoff won his first major championship, the 1949 U.S. Open at Medinah in Chicago, and then in 1955 achieved the Masters largest winning margin of seven strokes earning a green jacket. At the 1956 U.S. Open at Oak Hill in Rochester, Middlecoff held off Ben Hogan and Julius Boros to capture his second national championship. In 1958, he earned the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average on the tour, following which he became the leading money-winner of the 1950s and the seventh on the all-time tour money list. He also captured at least one tournament every year until his retirement in 1961, when he began a successful career as a television commentator. He was inducted into the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame in 1986.
Ms. Middlecoff died in 1998 of heart failure at the age of 77.