Phyllis Semple Dies In Delray
Mother of 7-time USGA champion, Hall of Famer was
87 years oldJanuary 18, 2009
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
In 2002, music echoed from a room of the clubhouse at
Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. It seemed
unusual because this was the week of the U.S. Women's
Amateur Championship and volunteers scurried around the
club with business-like expressions, while competitors
either showed hope or defeat, depending on their on-course
But in this small room overlooking the 18th green, a
lone figure pounded out a raucous "
Yes Sir, That's My Baby,"
on a baby grand. It was Phyllis Semple, joyfully
celebrating yet another match-play victory by her daughter,
Carol Semple Thompson.
Semple had watched every stroke. Disabled but unbowed by
a battle with lupus since 1973, she walked many a match -
hundreds of matches her daughter played and a number of
match-play tussles of her own. Determined, wise-cracking
and unfailingly polite, Semple put her own stamp on the
Phyllis Keister Semple, 87, matriarch of a family that
included a USGA president and a seven-time USGA champion,
and a fine golfer in her own right, died Sunday at her
winter home in Delray Beach, Fla.
In recent years Semple was best known as the mother of
Carol Semple Thompson, who was inducted into the World Golf
Hall of Fame in November. Phyllis was the wife of the late
Harton S. "Bud" Semple, who served as USGA
president in 1974-75.
Phyllis Semple also played a major role on various USGA
committees for more than 50 years. She was named to the
Women's Committee in 1957 and retired from the Museum
Committee in 2008 after many years of service. She was
captain of the 1976 USA Women's World Amateur Team.
As a player, Semple was a fearsome competitor. A
one-time student of famed professional Tommy Armour, she
was a former North & South Senior Women's Amateur
champion and won the 1987 Pennsylvania Women's Senior
Amateur. She captured the 1964 Pennsylvania Women's Amateur
title and was a seven-time West Penn Women's Amateur
champion. In 1963, she reached the quarterfinals of the
U.S. Women's Amateur at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown,
Mass. In 1965, she lost to her daughter, Carol, in the
final of the West Penn Women's Amateur, a victory that
would carry Carol on to bigger and greater titles in the
"She constantly pushed me into playing well, in a
loving way," said Thompson on Sunday. "She was
the most competitive person I have ever known in my life.
All of the health problems she endured.
"If I'd had 50 percent of her competitive spirit,
maybe I would have been a good player," added the
winner of the 1973 U.S. Women's Amateur, 1990 and '97 U.S.
Women's Mid-Amateur, and the four-time champion of the USGA
Senior Women's Amateur (1999-02).
"One of my favorite friends," said former USGA
President Judy Bell, a two-time chairman of the USGA
Women's Committee. "Phyllis Semple was the best
competitor on and off the golf course I have ever known.
There was absolutely no quit with her. I admire her more
than I could ever express."
On Feb. 4, 2007, at the age of 85, Phyllis made two
holes-in-one, acing the fourth and tenth holes at the St.
Andrews Club, a par-3 course, in Delray Beach. Playing with
her daughter Carol, Phyllis said, "After the first
one, I said I can do it again."
At the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur during a walk across
the parking lot of the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., with
Barbara Romack, the 1954 U.S. Women's Amateur champion at
Semple's home course, Allegheny Country Club, Phyllis
Semple was spotted rummaging through the trunk of her
"Hey, Phyllis," Barbara called. "Do you
remember what happened 50 years ago
today?""Yeah," called the 83-year-old
Phyllis, not missing a beat, "some blonde won the
Women's Amateur at my club!"
Phyllis's interests went beyond golf. She was an
accomplished harpist and pianist who founded the Sewickley
Concert in the Park in 1994 and was a longtime board member
of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
With her husband Bud, Phyllis Semple raised five
children; Harton Semple Jr., the aforementioned Carol
Semple Thompson, Cherry White, Heather Semple and her late
daughter, Fraser Foster. She also had seven
Visitation has been set for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 30
at Allegheny C.C. in Sewickley. A memorial service will be
held the following day at 11:30 a.m. at the Presbyterian
Church of Sewickley.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the
USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at