The USGA mourns the recent losses of two national champions.
Alberta Bower, the 1975 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, died on Aug. 21 at the age of 91 in Charleston, S.C.
Robert Rawlins, who claimed the 1984 U.S. Senior Amateur and was low amateur in the 1983 U.S. Senior Open, died on Oct. 11 in Dallas at the age of 85 following a brief illness. According to the Texas Golf Association, Rawlins’ health had been deteriorating in recent months due to lung and heart ailments.
Bower, a longtime member of the Country Club of Charleston, was born in Owensboro, Ky., and claimed state titles in Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and South Carolina. She had lived in Charleston since 1991. In 1986, at the age of 74, she won her second Charleston Women’s Amateur.
In 1975, when the event was conducted over 54 holes of stroke play, Bower, then living in Pelham, N.Y., carded a final-round 1-under-par 73 at Rhode Island Country Club to edge Carolyn Cudone by six strokes to win the Senior Women’s Amateur. Cudone had won five consecutive titles from 1968-72.
“She was a great competitor,” Lea Anne Brown, a 13-time Charleston Women’s Amateur champion, told the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston. “You could never count her out. She always made up for a mistake with her short game.”
Bower and her late husband, Albert Bunker Brower, had four children.
Rawlins will be inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame on Oct. 20.
“We are greatly saddened with the passing of Texas amateur golf legend Bob Rawlins. We are honored to have Bob as part of the 2014 induction class at the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and send our condolences to his family and his many friends," said Buddy Cook, the chairman of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
Known as the “Dark Cloud” for his sarcasm and acerbic wit, which hid a kind demeanor, Rawlins competed in 21 USGA championships and won club titles at Las Colinas Country Club, Preston Hollow and Dallas Athletic Club. He also won the inaugural American Amateur Classic in 1972 and won again in 1982.
In the 1984 Senior Amateur conducted at Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club, Rawlins needed 19 holes to defeat 1982 champion Alton Duhon in the semifinals. In the championship match, Rawlins birdied No. 18 to force extra holes against Richard Runkle, the previous year’s runner-up. At the time of his victory, Rawlins was the youngest Senior Amateur champion (55), a mark that has since been surpassed by several players.
A year earlier in the U.S. Senior Open held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., Rawlins was one of nine amateurs to make the cut, and despite weekend rounds of 76-78, he managed to earn low-amateur honors with a 72-hole score of 16-over 300, 12 strokes behind champion Billy Casper.
At Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, where Rawlins was a member, the trophy case features a replica of the U.S. Senior Amateur Trophy, along with competitor badges from his 21 USGA appearances.
Rawlins turned professional in 1987 and played nine years on the PGA Senior (now Champions) Tour.
Rawlins estimated he shot his age or better more than 3,000 times based on roughly 200 rounds per year, many coming at Royal Oaks, and he registered 13 holes-in-one, all coming in competition.
Royal Oak pro Randy Smith, who has taught USGA champions Justin Leonard and Colt Knost, as well as PGA Tour winners Ryan Palmer and Harrison Frazar, said Rawlins had one of the purest swings he had ever seen. He told writer Kevin Newberry: “His swing is like pouring syrup from a jar. He’ll go out and groan, but he breaks his age every time he plays.
“If I ever want to show someone the proper grip, I call ‘Cloud’ over and show them his grip. His hands are just amazing. To have the touch around the green with the wedges he has at age 80 … it’s just scary.”
Rawlins is survived by his wife of 64 years, Noni, and their two daughters, Kathi and Patti.
Texas Golf Hall of Fame provided some information used in this story.