Influential Women in Golf

Today, on International Women’s Day, I offer up my Mount Rushmore of influential women in golf…

By Matt Ginella

Marion Hollins: The Pioneer

Being from Northern California, I believe I heard the name at a fairly early age. But there wasn’t much more than that. If you’re lucky enough to have played Pasatiempo, you’ve probably heard a mention of the Hollins House, the clubhouse-bar-wedding venue that overlooks the 1st tee, a view that extends all the way out to Santa Cruz. But what did I really know about Marion Hollins? Then I did a deep dive into the history of Pasatiempo about 15 years ago, when I wrote a Bay Area travel story for Golf Digest. She brought in Alister Mackenzie to design and build Cypress Point? She struck oil? She used profits from that oil discovery to develop Pasatiempo, again partnering with Mackenzie as the architect? She played with Bobby Jones on opening day? Jones’s getting his eyes on Cypress Point and Pasatiempo is what led him to hire Mackenzie to build Augusta National? Hollins was intimately involved with what became the finished product?

That’s Marion Hollins. Her impact on three of the greatest venues in the world is exactly why she is finally getting her due, almost 78 years after her death. On Wednesday, Hollins will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, alongside Tiger Woods. For more on her life and legacy, at the beginning of this piece is a video we originally produced for Golf Channel the week of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club.

Alice Dye

Alice Dye: The First Lady

A captain of the Rollins College golf team, Dye won nine Indiana Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championships. I had the honor and privilege to get to know her and spend time with her at her home in Florida, and I interviewed her at length on several occasions. She was remarkably articulate and observant, and I was amazed by her recall of names, dates and other specifics about her architect husband, Pete, and all of his projects as well as his protégés, about whom she would speak as though they were her own children. She was warm, welcoming and engaging, and she always asked about my life, my wife and my kids. She stayed current by watching and immersing herself in the modern game until her death in 2019, at the age of 91. She thought the ball went too far.

“It’s a spectator sport,” she told me. “It’s not a great experience to see them hit a 350-yard tee shot, walk all that way, only to see them hit a wedge into the green.”

Alice was famously influential in Pete’s designs, and as she was the thoughtful, loving and loyal keeper of a man who was always on the move, I hate to think about where golf would be without her. During a week in which we soak up the thrills and spills of Alice’s Island Green, I miss not having the opportunity to hear her voice and opinions on life and golf.

Judy Rankin

Judy Rankin: The Voice

Forget the golf accomplishments, which often get overlooked — the 26 LPGA Tour wins, a two-time Player of the Year and a two-time winning captain of the Solheim Cup. Rankin is on my Mount Rushmore for what she has done in front of the camera and behind the microphone. I marveled at her hustle as an on-course reporter (and continue to marvel at her work as an analyst). You always knew the Hall of Famer was in hot pursuit of the facts and insights into the situation she was covering. Her questions, always on point and delivered with grace. I have so much respect for her perspective as a competitor, captain, coach and critic. That’s not only based on her experiences and reporting, but it’s also about how much thought she puts into every piece of analysis and opinion. Like I did with Vin Scully, I will watch just to hear what she has to say. When we were colleagues at Golf Channel, she was always nothing but classy and giving with her time. She is a treasure, and we should never take someone like Rankin for granted.

Sheila Walker

Sheila Walker: The Royalty

The name might not be familiar, so it probably comes as a surprise that she’s on my Mount Rushmore. But after you see what we came back with from our recent journey to Scotland, it’ll all make sense. Walker, 77, is the great great granddaughter of Old Tom Morris. She still owns and lives in the house that Old Tom once owned in St. Andrews. She still occasionally opens her living room window and watches golfers putt on the Old Course’s 18th green. “I don’t do it as often as people think I do,” Walker says as she carefully negotiates a set of stairs. I met Walker in her backyard, where she took me on a tour of her small but impeccable garden. “There are over 100 different flowers back here,” she says as she breaks off and gifts me a blooming viburnum. My heart skipped a beat. A flower from golf royalty?! I gently tucked it into my pocket before saying goodbye. For now.

Later that evening we met for a two-hour interview during which she shared details of her family history, her passion about the impact of Old Tom, and the responsibility that comes with being the caretaker of such an iconic legacy. I asked her, of all of Old Tom’s contributions to golf—agronomist, ball-maker, player and architect—what she was most proud of.

She thought for only a second or two: “It would be all of it.”

As I put her back on a bus to Edinburgh, where she spends half of her week, I thanked her, on behalf of the game, for agronomists, equipment manufacturers, championship golf and all that’s good about golf architecture. In other words, I thanked her for all of it.

3 thoughts on “Influential Women in Golf”

  1. As the father of 3 daughters who all love golf, this was so uplifting and educational. Thanks for the insightful and touching piece.

  2. Ahhhh, a slap on the face for me too!
    Those who quietly change our world for the better, with equal chance and status, are deserving of honor and recognition.

  3. Linda J Gardner

    Great article on some women in golf. Appreciate what you cover and report from the world of golf — men, women, junior golfers etc. Keep ’em coming.

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