Wethered, Joyce (1901–1997)
Wethered, Joyce (1901–1997)
British golfer whose textbook swing won her five English Ladies' championships and four British Women's championships . Name variations: Lady Heathcote-Amory. Born in Maldon, Surrey, England, on November 17, 1901; died in London, England, in December 1997; married Lord Heathcote-Amory.
Won the English Ladies' championship five times (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924); was a four-time winner of the British Women's Amateur championships (1922, 1924, 1925, 1929); with various partners, including her amateur star brother Roger, won the Worplesdon mixed foursomes (1922, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1936); thought, by some, to be the greatest woman golfer of all time.
Bobby Jones, America's all-time golfing great, once played the Old Course at St. Andrews on the Lancashire coast of Scotland with Joyce Wethered. Soon after, he noted:
She did not miss one shot; she did not even half miss a shot; and when we finished, I could not help saying that I had never played golf with anyone, man or woman, amateur or professional, who made me feel so utterly outclassed…. I have no hesitancy in saying that, accounting for the unavoidable handicap of a woman's lesser physical strength, she is the finest golfer I have ever seen.
Wethered was often compared to Bobby Jones. In the 1920s, she dominated the course and was considered to be the equal of all but a half-dozen male golfers in Britain. Wethered was only 19 when she began playing in tournaments, beating Cecil Leitch at the English Ladies' championship. In that era, golf, like many sports, was dominated by wealthy amateurs, but there were some remarkable players. Many would later compare Jack Nicklaus, the American champion, to Wethered, as both had a great ability to concentrate. She never noticed the opposition on the course. It was as if she were the only player. "If I could only bring myself to forget the excitement and importance of the match I was playing in," she said, "then I gave myself an infinitely better chance of reproducing my best form." Her force of concentration, her timing, her fluid swing and long hitting ability, led to her winning five English Ladies' championships and four British Women's championships. Wethered's most memorable match may have been in 1929 in the British Women's final at St. Andrews. Her main opponent was American great Glenna Collett Vare . One by one, the other 126 contestants were eliminated in the competition. Down by 5 at the end of the first 9 holes, Wethered played the next 18 in 73, and won on the 35th green.
Wethered married Lord Heathcote-Amory who also played golf, though he was never in his wife's class. She loved trout fishing and gardening at her country estate but continued to play some golf, competing in the Worplesdon Tournament 15 times and winning 8. Said Henry Cotton, the British Open champion in the 1930s, "I do not think a golf ball has ever been hit except perhaps by Harry Vardon, with such a straight flight by any other person." In 1975, Wethered and Vare were inducted into the PGA World Golf Hall of Fame.
Condon, Robert J. Great Women Athletes of the 20th Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1991.
Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia