Maureen Orcutt, Winner Of Two USGA
Events, Dies At 99
January 10, 2007
By RhondaGlenn, USGA
Maureen Orcutt, 99, the last surviving member of the first USA Curtis
Cup team, a two-time USGA champion whose key tournament victories
spanned more than 40 years and a pioneer sports journalist, died
Tuesday in Durham,
|Maureen Orcutt follows through during the
third Curtis Cup Match, in 1936 at King's Course in Gleneagles,
Scotland. (USGA Photo Archives)|
Orcutt won her first important championship, the Eastern Women's
Amateur, in 1925 and her last, the USGA Senior Women's Amateur,
in 1966. Her amateur playing career included matches against
Bob Jones, Joyce Wethered and Glenna Collett Vare. Her journalistic
career included tournament coverage for The New York World and
a sports column for The New York Times.
Jones, Wethered, Vare, Cecil Leitch, Gene Sarazen, Marion Hollins,
Babe Zaharias and Sam Snead, she knew them all. Lincoln Werden
and William D. Richardson, legendary reporters from the last century,
were her pals. And Marible Vincent, Janet Owen and Nan O'Reilly
were her fellow journalists who helped pioneer sports reporting
A native New Yorker, Orcutt spent her later years in Durham
and, well into her 80s, still played two or three times a week.
She willingly shared her keen memories of her early days with
younger reporters who came to her door. But Orcutt was no pushover.
She was a sharp critic of modern-day golf journalism, frequently
writing letters to the editor or calling television stations to
complain about their golf coverage. "Next time, send somebody
to cover the Greensboro Open who knows something about golf!"
she famously told one newspaper editor over the telephone.
Orcutt was a member of four Curtis Cup teams before World War
II. She took part in the original informal matches with English
players organized by Vare and Molly Gourlay at Sunningdale in
1930. Two years later, the Curtis Cup match was formalized.
Orcutt won the time-honored Eastern Women's Amateur in 1925, '28
and '29, the Canadian Women's Amateur in 1929 and 1930, the Women's
North and South Amateur in 1931, along with a slew of the
winter amateur events and was selected for the first
team that defeated
in 1932. In four Curtis Cup appearances she was 2-2 in singles
play and 3-1 in foursomes.
In the 1920s and '30s, she was one of the world's premier amateurs
and won dozens of tournaments. She was even medalist in the British
Ladies Open Amateur. She was one of the game's finest long iron
players throughout her career, but her putting was sometimes suspect
and the championship she most wanted -- the U.S. Women's Amateur
-- always eluded her grasp. Orcutt was twice runner-up; in 1927
to Miriam Burns Horn (5 and 4) and in 1936 to Pamela Barton (4
and 3). She was medalist in the Women's Amateur in 1928 and tied
for medalist in 1931 and '32.
Her win at the first USGA Senior Women's Amateur Championship
in 1962 brought her to tears. "When I won it was the thrill of
my life because I'd finally won a
championship," Orcutt said in a 1991 interview for the United
States Golf Association archives.
Orcutt was a respected reporter for The New York Times and The
New York World, which helped her pursue amateur golf. It was
a highly successful pursuit. Several times her excellent tournament
play conflicted with her reporting duties. In 1968, she made
the final of the Metropolitan Women's Golf Association amateur
"When I got into the finals, I called the office and said, 'I'm
not covering the final, send somebody.' And they did," she said.
Orcutt won the championship.
She followed her father, the music critic at The New York Tribune
and The New York Times, into journalism. Her earlier duties even
included setting the agate type for the racing results. Over
the years she hauled her old typewriter to tournament appearances,
playing her matches during the daylight hours, then scrambling
to file her stories with Western Union
On her first trip to
in 1930 for the early matches with British players, Orcutt's mother
did her reporting legwork, helping her to gather details for her
Maureen was introduced to golf in 1917, at the age of 10 when
her mother took her and her twin brothers, Sinclair and Bill,
to the golf course in order to keep the children away from the
Captain of her high school basketball team, Orcutt became an
avid golfer and, with the permission of her teachers, skipped
her senior classes in 1925 to play in the Eastern Women's Amateur.
She won and it was the first of many important women's championships.
As a junior she had won the 1924 New Jersey Girls' Junior and
the 1922 and 1924 Metropolitan Women's Golf Association Girls'
Junior. She won the Met Women's Amateur four years in a row (1926-'29).
Orcutt dominated tournament golf in
and the Met Women's Golf Association, but the Eastern Women's
Amateur victory and a tour of the
winter amateur circuit, where she won the Florida East Coast and
Palm Beach Championships, among others, cemented her national
While she was born on Park Avenue
, Orcutt was a working
girl and her reporting career helped finance her amateur golf.
Over the years she was part of a group of elite players, Vare,
Van Wie, Alexa Stirling,
Pam Barton, and she beat most of them at one time or another.
Failing to win the Women's Amateur to cap off her career actually
kept her in amateur golf, she said, as she pursued the vision
of that elusive prize.
In her later years she became a frequent guest at USGA reunions
and made convivial appearances to catch up with her pals. By
1990, when the Curtis Cup matches were played at Somerset Hills
C.C. in Bernardsville,
Orcutt was an honored guest. She was one of the last players
of her era, a legend from the days of Vare and Stirling
and Van Wie.
Regal of bearing, Orcutt had a voice that stayed with you --
the unmistakable elegance of
but the clipped no-nonsense voice of the reporter. Still chipper,
the then 83-year-old Orcutt sat in the grass on a hillside near
the 18th green, cheerfully chatting with the young
American players Vicki Goetze and Brandie Burton as the network
television cameras rolled.
She had been a fierce competitor but she took great delight in
golf and its modern players. Through the years, she remained
staunch, cheery and a keen observer of the game.
What one famous novelist wrote in his classic American novel
could have just as easily been written about Orcutt as she gracefully
became one of the game's grande dames: "She was a golfer,"
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, "and everyone
knew her name."
RhondaGlenn is a Manager of Communications
for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at email@example.com.