Cudone, USGA Champion, Dies at
March 20, 2009
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
Carolyn Cudone, a merry, gracious player and the only golfer
to win five straight United States Golf Association
championships, died Thursday in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at the
age of 90.
|Carolyn Cudone enjoys the third of
five straight USGA Senior Women's Amateur titles in
1970 at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Cudone won the USGA Senior Women's Amateur Championship five
times from 1968 to 1972. Of the more celebrated players who
have won the Senior Women's Amateur more than once - Dot
Porter, Anne Quast Sander, Marlene Streit and Carol Semple
Thompson - none touched Cudone's five straight victories,
although Thompson won four straight from 1999 to 2002.
Just one week ago, on March 12, she
was inducted into the Myrtle Beach Hall of Fame
. The Hall of Fame was created to honor men and women who
have played significant roles in all aspects of the Myrtle
Beach golf industry, including playing, teaching, course
design and construction, marketing and administration.
Growing up in Staten Island, N.Y., Cudone was the scourge of
Metropolitan women's golf. She won the New Jersey Women's
Amateur five times, 11 New Jersey stroke-play and five
Women's Metropolitan Golf Association match-play titles.
During the 1950s and early '60s, when women's amateur golf
garnered big headlines, Cudone captured a number of important
titles, including the 1958 North & South Women's Amateur,
the 1960 Women's Eastern Amateur and the 1962 Hollywood
International Four-Ball with her fellow Met player, Cookie
Swift Berger, as her partner.
Cudone was a member of the 1956 USA Curtis Cup team, where
she clinched her lone match, a foursomes encounter with her
partner Mary Ann Downey against Janette Robertson and
Veronica Anstey, 6 and 4. It was one of only four points the
USA managed in a losing cause against Great Britain and
Ireland's six points.
A strong player, Cudone smacked her fairway woods in shots
that screamed low off the clubface, then rose and dropped to
the green, much like Patty Berg, who Cudone somewhat matched
in her physical stature.
While she assembled a wonderful collection of titles, Cudone
never quite cracked the elite group of women amateurs of her
era: JoAnne Gunderson, Barbara McIntire, Anne Quast and
Barbara Romack. Her nemesis was the feisty Polly Riley. A
canny match-play specialist, Riley knocked Cudone out of the
semifinals of the 1953 Women's Amateur, beat her in the third
round of that championship in 1955 and eliminated her in the
fourth round in 1958.
"It's that top echelon that you always hope for," Cudone told
a reporter six years ago, "but it never occurred to me that I
would be good enough." Reminiscing about losing to Riley in
the Women's Amateur three times, Cudone was
characteristically frank. "That's sickening," Cudone said. "I
kept trying. That's all I could do."
Cudone was part of a little known slice of history in the
1956 Women's Amateur. In the first round of match play at the
Country Club of Indianapolis, she defeated Ann Gregory, the
first African-American woman to compete in a USGA
championship, 2 and 1.
In 1990, Cudone recalled an ugly incident at that long ago
championship. A parking attendant told Cudone's father, "Your
daughter better win today or you'd better not come back to
this parking lot."
Introduced on the first tee, Cudone got a huge ovation while
Gregory received only polite applause.
"Every reporter in Indianapolis was there," said
Cudone. "You couldn't stir them with a stick! She
must have been as nervous as a wet hen because, as we left
the tee, she said if she didn't count her strokes right, it
wasn't on purpose."
Cudone continued to chase the game's elite, consistently
playing in the national championships and, with her husband
Philip, spending the winter on the Florida Orange Blossom
It was as a senior golfer, however, that Cudone proved
herself. She played in the USGA Senior Women's Amateur 10
times, won five of the titles and twice finished as
In 1968, she led every round at Monterey Peninsula C.C. in
Pebble Beach , Calif. The championship was then played at
stroke play and Cudone won by 10, shooting 236 for 54 holes
and equaling the championship record.
In 1969, she defeated Mrs. Lowell D. Brown in a playoff, 76
to 84, at Ridglea C.C. in Fort Worth, Tex. Cudone birdied
three of the first four holes. The year 1970 was historic
when she became the first USGA champion since Virginia Van
Wie (1932, '33, '34 U.S. Women's Amateur champion) to win
three straight titles. At Coral Ridge C.C. in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., Cudone fired a championship record 231 for
Cudone became the first player to win four straight USGA
titles when she captured the 1971 USGA Senior Women's Amateur
at Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club. Ironically, she edged Gregory,
her opponent in the 1956 Women's Amateur, by a stroke.
In 1972, Cudone did what no one had done before, capturing a
fifth straight USGA national championship. She won by six
In her remaining five championships, she contended every
year, garnering two runner-up medals, one third-place and two
Time dulls her achievements a bit, and Cudone herself
couldn't recall them clearly in an interview several years
ago. Her double-digit win in 1968 caused her to say, "I did?
By 10 shots? Wow, that's pretty good."
Her incredible fifth straight in 1972 at Manufacturers Golf
& Country Club in Oreland, Pa., jogged her memory. "The
last one was the big surprise," she said. "Helen Sigel Wilson
was eligible and it was her neck of the woods. It was a
foregone conclusion in my mind that she was going to win. So
I was out there beating it around."
In her later years, Cudone lived in Myrtle Beach, where she
had settled with her late husband. She founded the Myrtle
Beach Junior Golf Program in 1981 and led the organization
for 21 years before turning over the reins at the age of 83.
Players from ages eight to 18 were welcomed, but one year
Cudone allowed seven-year-old Kristy McPherson to sign up, as
had her three older siblings.
"She let us in before we were old enough to be playing and
she took care of us," said McPherson, now a professional.
"Carolyn Cudone is a cool lady. She's one of the reasons I'm
playing golf right now."
She was a gracious winner and a cheerful loser who loved to
laugh. Many a young player found herself shaking hands after
a rare victory over Cudone and being greeted with the
In reminiscing about winning half of the 10 USGA Senior
Women's Amateur Championships she entered, and never
finishing worse than fourth, her reaction was typically
modest and succinct.
"Not bad," she mused.
RhondaGlennis a Manager of Communications for the USGA. E-mail her
with questions or comments at email@example.com.