Obituary: Dorothy Porter, 1949 Women’s Amateur Champion, 88

Longtime Member of USGA Women’s Committee Won Five USGA Championships

By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
July 23, 2012

Dorothy Porter, with her 2-year-old daughter Nancy, pictured with the U.S. Women's Amateur trophy in 1949. (USGA Photo Archives)

 Dorothy Germain Porter, who won five USGA championships, including the 1949 U.S. Women‘s Amateur, died July 20 at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia of complications from pneumonia. She was 88.  

With the Women’s Amateur, Porter won the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur in 1977, ’80, ’81 and ’83. Her five USGA titles places her in a tie for sixth on the all-time list with Carolyn Cudone, Juli Inkster and Mickey Wright. They are eclipsed on the female side only by JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who won eight, Anne Quast Sander and Carol Semple Thompson, with seven, and Hollis Stacy and Glenna Collett Vare, with six.

Porter was a longtime member of the USGA Women’s Committee, noted for her charm as a public speaker and her sportsmanship as a competitor. Porter was a dominant player in Philadelphia, which produced a number of champions from the earlier days of women’s amateur competition in the United States. Porter won the Philadelphia Women’s Amateur nine times, the last in 1992 at the age of 68. She was a three-time Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion. In her later years, she was a frequent competitor in the Senior Women’s International Match in which a team from the United States plays against a European team.

Porter was born in Philadelphia on April 3, 1924. A multi-sport athlete at Upper Darby High School and Beaver College, she once called golf a “silly” game but grew to love it. As Dorothy Germain, she played in her first Women’s Amateur in 1941 at the age of 17, losing to fellow Philadelphian Helen Sigel in the third round.

When the 1949 U.S. Women’s Amateur came to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., Porter was ready. This was a transitional year for women’s amateur golf. An old guard of players who had dominated in the first half of the century was being replaced by new players in the post-World War II boom. Past champions Estelle Lawson Page, Glenna Collett Vare, Helen Stetson, and even Margaret Curtis, who was 69, were in the field while Porter, Sigel, Marlene Bauer and Dorothy Kielty represented the new generation.

That week, Porter established herself as a player of national caliber, defeating Kielty in the final, 3 and 1. Of note is that Porter was two months pregnant when she won the title, and with a 2-year-old at home, was the first mother to win the title since Glenna Collett Vare 14 years before. She had married Mark Porter in 1946.

A near automatic selection for the 1950 USA Curtis Cup team, she paired with Beverly Hanson in foursomes and defeated the highly regarded team of Jessie Valentine and Jean Donald, 3 and 2. In singles, Porter halved her match with the redoubtable Frances Stephens and the USA won the cup, 7½ to 1½.

In 1966, Porter returned to the Curtis Cup as captain of the USA Team and her squad prevailed, 13 to 5. In 1984, she captained the successful USA team in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Hong Kong, where the USA edged France by two strokes.

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Porter had a classically graceful yet powerful swing that kept her in contention in national championships for more than four decades. In 1943 and ’44, she won the Women’s Western Amateur, one of the few women’s amateur championships not suspended during World War II. She won a third Women’s Western Amateur in 1967, and in 1969, at the age of 45, she won the Women’s Eastern Amateur, defeating players less than half her age.

Her first victory in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur in 1977 marked the first time a U.S. Women’s Amateur champion had also captured that title.

“Thank God! Now, I'll never have to practice again," Porter famously said after winning the championship.

But practice she did, and after winning four Senior Women’s Amateur titles, she contended as late as 1988 when, at 64, she tied for the 36-hole lead in the stroke-play championship. A back injury about which she never complained led to a final round of 79 and ended her hopes, but she tied for fifth, the only competitor over the age of 60 to make the top 10 that year.

While Porter won numerous championships, she was perhaps most proud of a statement made by four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Mickey Wright. When Wright was interviewed by Golf Magazine in the 1980s, she was asked to name the three golfers with whom she most enjoyed playing. Wright named Ben Hogan, Louise Suggs, and for sportsmanship and grace, Dorothy Germain Porter.

Upon learning of Porter’s death, Wright said, “Dot was an outstanding human being who had a warmth of personality and generosity of spirit unlike anyone else I ever met in golf. I'll miss her.”

In 1951, when Wright was a junior golfer, she had been defeated by Porter in the Women’s Western Amateur. Years later, Wright recalled that day.

“I think it was the first or second round, and she whipped me real good. But I learned more from her that day about how to be gracious on the golf course, how to be nice to a young kid from nowhere. She took the time to be nice, took the time to talk and always had a smile on her face whether she won or lost the hole or hit a good or bad shot. It was just very special, and I tried to pattern my life as a golfer after the way she treated me that day.”

Dorothy Porter is survived by her children, Nancy, Mark and Donna, and nine grandchildren. Her husband, Mark Porter, died in 1996.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 26 at 10 a.m. at Collingswood Baptist Church in Collingswood, N.J. Memorial contributions can be made to The First Tee of Philadelphia: (www.thefirstteephiladelphia.org) or to Women Golfers Give Back: (womengolfersgiveback.org) .

 
 

 

 

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