Baugh, Laura (1955—)
Baugh, Laura (1955—)
American golfer, once the youngest U.S. Women's Amateur champion in history. Born May 31, 1955, in Gainesville, Florida; married Bobby Cole (a PGA Tour professional golfer), in 1980 (divorced 1985; remarried 1988; separated); children: Chelsea (d. 1982); Eric James; Haley; Robby; Michael; Evita (b. April 1995); Jamie Lee.
Became the youngest U.S. Women's Amateur golf champion in history (13 days younger thanBeatrix Hoyt when she won in 1896); winner of many tournaments who received numerous commercial endorsements.
Coached by her father who had been a member of the University of Florida golf team, Laura Baugh began playing golf at age two. At seven, she won the so-called National Peewee championships, then went on to win the Juniors four times. When her parents divorced, she moved to California with her mother, where she continued to compete. Though young, Baugh had the power of an adult and could drive the ball straight down the fairway for 215 yards or more. Following her 1971 win of the U.S. Girls Amateur, the 16-year-old decided to try for the Women's Amateur as well. Despite hands that were cracked and bleeding, Baugh hit over 1,000 practice balls in her determination to win, and her efforts paid off in victory.
In 1973, in order to support herself, Baugh was forced to turn pro as soon as she reached the age requirement. In the first eight events, she won $19,656 and was named Rookie Golfer of the Year. Wilson golf equipment, Ford Motor cars, Suzuki motorcycles, Rolex watches, Colgate, and two golf resorts all paid Laura Baugh to advertise their products. Her many fans were called "Laura's Legions," and she became known as golf's Golden Girl.
But the Golden Girl spent years battling an addiction to alcohol as her marriage disintegrated. In 1996, drinking almost killed her; a maid found her unconscious in a hotel room in California. "They jump started my heart on the way to the hospital," said Baugh. Alcohol destroys platelets. Normally, platelet counts are in the 140–400 range. In May 1996, six weeks after her near-death experience in that hotel room, Baugh's platelet count went down to 40 within a few hours. "The doctor told me I could die. They gave me a couple of platelet transfusions, but they didn't take for four days. I bled from my eyes, my fingernails, my ears." Later that week, Baugh checked into the Betty Ford Center. "Alcoholism slapped me around like I was an infant. It was only when I could admit to not being in control that I could, with God's help, become strong enough to stay sober." In 1998, Baugh competed in 16 tournaments.
Kornheiser, Tony. "Laura Baugh Attracts Attention, Not Victory," in The New York Times Biographical Service. August 1977, pp. 1052–1053.
Kulkin, Mary-Ellen. Her Way: Biographies of Women for Young People. Chicago: American Library Association, 1976.
"Last Call," in People Weekly. November 16, 1998.
Karin L. Haag , Athens, Georgia