Bob Jones Award Speech For Betsy Rawls

This is the transcript of Mickey Wright's speech introducing Betsy Rawls as the 1996 recipient of the USGA's Bob Jones Award.

Thank you, Judy [Bell], and good evening ladies and gentlemen.

Betsy, I hope you don’t mind this little surprise that Judy, Barbara [McIntire] and I cooked up for you, but I wouldn’t have missed this wonderful evening for anything.

It is, indeed, a real pleasure for me to be here tonight to introduce and help honor this year’s recipient of the Bob Jones Award, my friend, Elizabeth Earle Rawls.

In the 42 years that I’ve known Betsy, I’ve witnessed first-hand all of the qualities and attributes in her that are the requisites for receiving this great honor.

Foremost of all the personal qualities that have made Betsy’s life in golf a consummate success story, I believe, are her fervent work ethic, her remarkable self-discipline and her quiet self-confidence. From these have sprung her generosity of spirit, her sense of fair play and her willingness to give of herself.

During her playing years, Betsy contributed to the growth of the fledgling women’s tour in numerous ways. She gave hundreds of free clinics and exhibitions while also contributing her time to the organization in many capacities, including two years as president of the LPGA.

Of course, her playing career is well known and outstanding. She was an incredibly elegant competitor. One of her finest moments came in winning her last major tournament, the LPGA Championship, in 1969 at the most difficult Concord Club in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y. The course was set at close to 7,000 yards. Betsy was 41 years old, and the field was full of enthusiastic, young, strong players. If the players had been handicapped that week, she would probably have gone off at 100-to-1 odds. I missed the cut, but had the pleasure the next two days of watching the most remarkably tenacious, well thought out play and great ball striking I’ve ever seen. She won the tournament by two shots. So much for the oddsmakers.

In all, she won 55 tournaments spanning 21 years: eight majors, including four USGA Women’s Opens. She was the first woman to win 10 tournaments in one year and by virtue of her wonderful record she’s a member of both the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame. Most amazingly, she did all of this without the benefit of titanium bubble shafts, yardage books, pin placement sheets or 500 dimples in her golf balls.

For most people that would have been a lifetime’s worth of accomplishment: But not for Betsy.

When the time to retire from playing golf came, Betsy switched gears, but stayed in the game she loved. In serving as tournament director of field operations for the LPGA, she played a prime role in the metamorphoses of the LPGA to a successful, major sports organization.

She then moved to another plane and test of her many abilities, that of management and administration. As executive director of the McDonald’s Championship, her efforts, dedication and diplomatic skills have helped not only to move that tournament to major status, but also made it the most popular and successful on tour.

During this time, she also served as president of the LPGA Sponsor’s Board. As a former player, she was uniquely able to balance the needs of the sponsors with the goals of the players; to the satisfaction of both.

Betsy also put her passion and vast knowledge of the Rules of the game to work by serving on the USGA Rules of Golf Committee for 12 years, and became the first woman to serve as a Rules official at the men’s U.S. Open at Baltusrol.

This recitation of Betsy’s accomplishments and service may seem only to depict her as a capable, organized and highly efficient machine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. She is basically a shy, self-effacing and private person, so we can only guess at the personal price she has paid for such a generous public persona.

As you can see, Betsy has never shunned the opportunity or responsibility to serve and stretch her considerable talents. In so doing, she has served nobly. She is truly a renaissance woman who is not only highly respected by her peers, but loved as well. It is with great pride and affection I give you this year’s recipient of the Bob Jones Award, Betsy Rawls.

 

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