A few years ago, Dorothy Campbell Hurd Howe was such an obscure figure that journalists writing about the World Golf Hall of Fame, of which she is a member, referred to “Dorothy Campbell” and “Hurd Howe” as two separate individuals.
They are, in fact, one and the same. Dorothy Campbell, as we shall refer to her here, was so well-known during her brief lifetime that many golf fans knew her personal nicknames for her clubs. Even her tragic death captured headlines.
Oct. 15 marked the 100th anniversary of Campbell’s victory in the 1910 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the second of Campbell’s three U.S. Women’s Amateur titles.
In the early years of the 20th century, Campbell won hundreds of tournaments in four nations, married and divorced twice, lived in three countries and was inducted into the first women’s golf hall of fame. She won her first national title at the age of 22, her last at 55, and died tragically at 61.
Born in Edinburgh in 1883, Dorothy Iona Campbell was the daughter of metal merchant William Campbell and his wife Emily Mary Campbell. According to Douglas Seaton’s excellent biography of Campbell for the North Berwick (Scotland) Hall of Fame, Dorothy was one of nine children.
She grew up on the famed North Berwick course where her paternal grandfather and eight uncles played in the summertime and she took her first swing with a golf club when she was 18 months old. By the age of 5, she was playing matches against her older sisters.
Campbell’s father died before the turn of the century and Campbell’s family moved permanently to North Berwick, where they had enjoyed summer holidays. At 13, she joined the North Berwick Ladies Golf Club, where she had a handicap of nine and took lessons from professional Ben Sayers.
Campbell picked up her first snippet of historical notice in 1905 when, at 22, she played on the British team that trounced an American squad led by sisters Harriot and Margaret Curtis in a match called “America versus England,” a predecessor of the Curtis Cup Match.
That same year, on her home course, Campbell won her first Scottish Ladies Championship when in the final she prevailed over M. Graham on the 19th green. She won again in 1906 and 1908.
A boisterous crowd of some 9,000 and awful weather may have squelched her chances in the 1908 British Ladies Open Amateur at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Granted, both finalists had to endure the situation as a terrible storm pounded the contestants with rain, hail and wind midway through the final nine. Campbell was defeated by Maud Titterton on the first extra hole.
Campbell rebounded the following year. In the spring, she defeated Florence Hezlet at Royal Birkdale G.C. to win the 1909 British and then accepted an invitation to play in that summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Merion.
The Women’s Amateur field included a number of foreign contestants. Since its first playing in 1895, however, no foreign player had won. Making a statement with a 10-and-8 victory in her first match, against Mrs. C.W. McKelvey, Campbell posted three more victories to reach the final against Nona Barlow, an Irish golfer who now lived in Philadelphia and played at Merion. The American Golfer reported that the final was marked by very good golf, and Campbell won, 3 and 2.
With the victory, Campbell established several “firsts:” the first foreign U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and the first to hold the British and American titles at the same time.
The following year, Campbell moved to Hamilton, Ontario, and quickly won the first of three straight Women’s Canadian Open Amateur championships. Next up was her title defense in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,080-yard Homewood C.C., in Flossmoor, Ill.
She got off to a terrific start, firing an 85 in qualifying for medalist honors. The American Golfer gushed that it was “the most wonderful golf ever displayed by a female golfer in this hemisphere.”
Campbell was even hotter in her second-round match when she defeated Mary Fownes, 6 and 5. With the usual match-play concessions and playing the bye holes, Campbell recorded a 78. It was the lowest known score by a woman over a course of more than 6,000 yards.
The Scottish transplant was at the top of her game and she breezed through every match, never being taken beyond the 15th green on her way to the final.
Campbell had an unusual grip, with the thumb of her right hand under the shaft. But she sported a superb short game, which featured a pitch-and-run she used from 15 yards in with the aid of a goose-necked mashie with a small face that she named “Thomas.” Her putter, which she had picked up in 1909, was called “Stella.”
The semifinals featured three foreign players when Florence Harvey of Canada advanced to join Campbell and Mrs. G.M. Martin of England. Only Lillian Hyde, the Metropolitan champion, represented the USA. For that reason, Hyde’s match with Martin attracted the biggest galleries but Martin won, 3 and 2, to set up an all-foreign final.
Campbell had defeated Harvey, 4 and 3, in her semifinal and was expected to triumph in the final. In the match, said The American Golfer, Martin was added “to the long list of plucky, efficient and nervy rivals who have fallen before the ‘champion of champions.’ ” Campbell won, 2 and 1, to capture her second straight U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, for a total of seven national titles in four countries.
The fact that two foreign finalists had guaranteed the Robert Cox Trophy would leave the country again prompted a short-lived effort from a few players to bar foreigners from the USA’s premier championship. Fortunately, the campaign failed to muster much support.
Campbell’s 1910 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is the centennial that we acknowledge today. Campbell’s career, however, was far from over. As defending champion in the Women’s Amateur, she lost in the 1911 semifinals to Margaret Curtis, the eventual champion.
In 1913, she married Jack V. Hurd of Pittsburgh and again relocated, this time to the United States. As Dorothy Campbell Hurd she won the North & South Women’s Amateur three times in four years between 1918-1921. The Hurds had a son and Dorothy went into semiretirement. When she lost to Alexa Stirling in the final of the 1920 U.S. Women’s Amateur, most observers thought her finest golf had ended. Hurd and Campbell divorced in 1923.
She returned to competition and discovered that her old-fashioned, sweeping style of hitting the ball, with stiff wrists, was outmoded. Many women were hitting the ball far past her tee shots, which still tended to be old-style, low fades. Like many modern players she sought innovation. In 1923, Campbell began taking lessons from George Sayers, a North Berwick man who was now a professional at Merion in Philadelphia. Douglas Seaton notes in his North Berwick history that Sayers changed Campbell’s grip to a Vardon grip and she returned to competition. The changes took 10 months to implement.
Campbell was 41 years old when she entered the 1924 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rhode Island C.C., the home course of the sensational Glenna Collett. Now Campbell had a more modern, efficient swing, but Collett, the hometown favorite, fired a 79 in stroke-play qualifying. It was the first time a score lower than 80 had been returned in qualifying. Then Collett, the medalist, was upset in the semifinals by Mary K. Browne of Los Angeles, a popular figure in her own right.
Browne, the 1912 and 1913 national singles champion in tennis, had an athletic background and was accustomed to the pressure of a national championship final. Campbell, on the other hand, during this period looked nothing like a world-class athlete. She was, after all, 41, and had a rounded, more maternal look in photographs of that time. Her soft smile, however, masked a strong competitive will.
Browne got off to a good start against Campbell and was 1 up after the second hole, but Dorothy was a tough and seasoned competitor, and she stormed to a 7-up lead after 27 holes. It was enough. Campbell won on the 30th green, 7 and 6.
A record 14 years had elapsed between her second and third U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship victories and, at 41, she remains the oldest champion in the event.
Campbell continued to play throughout the 1930s and won the 1938 U.S. Senior Women’s Championship at the age of 55. In 1937 she married Edward Howe, and then divorced him six years later.
In 1945, Dorothy Campbell was involved in a shocking accident. On Dec. 20, she was changing trains in Yemassee, S.C., when she was struck and killed by a passing train. She was 61 years old.
During her lifetime, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three times, the British Ladies Open Amateur twice, the Canadian Women’s Open Amateur three times and the Scottish Ladies Championship three times. And with that record, Dorothy Campbell Hurd Howe was our first international women’s champion.
Rhonda Glenn is a Manager of USGA Communications. E-mail her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.