U.S. Women’s Amateur helped shape the future of golf for women

The United States Golf Association had a big hand in the growth of women’s golf in the U.S.

In 1894, then called the Amateur Golf Association, the USGA was formed. A year later, it hosted the first U.S. Women’s Amateur. It was first conducted in 1895, shortly after the inaugural U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. The Women’s Amateur has been conducted every year since, except 1917-18, when it was suspended due to World War I, and 1942-45, when it was suspended due to World War II.

That means the U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of the oldest USGA championships and first major golf tournament for women in the country.

The U.S. Women’s Amateur will contest its 123rd championship beginning Monday at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. A field of 156 golfers will vie to take home the Robert Cox Trophy, which has its own unique history.

The Robert Cox Trophy remains the oldest surviving trophy awarded for a USGA championship. It’s also the only USGA trophy donated by someone from another country, coming from Scotland’s, you guess it, Robert Cox.

The first U.S. Women’s Amateur tournament attracted a field of 13 and was played over 18 holes. As in the case of the men’s U.S. Amateur, entry was originally restricted to members of USGA-affiliated private clubs (and, presumably, international players who were members of clubs affiliated with their nations’ golf governing bodies); this policy remained in place until the 1979 tournament.

The most decorated U.S. Women’s Open champion is Glenna Collett Vare, a lifelong amateur who won the Cox Trophy a record six times. Second to Vare is JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who won five U.S. Women’s Amateurs. Combined with her two wins in the U.S. Women’s Open and one victory in the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Carner’s eight USGA titles are tied with Jack Nicklaus and eclipsed only by Bob Jones and Tiger Woods, who have each won nine.

There have been no shortage of repeat winners at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, either. Beatrix Hoyt, Alexa Stirling, Vare, Virginia Van Wie and Juli Inkster have all won the U.S. Women’s Amateur three straight times. Another seven – Genevieve Hecker, Dorothy Campbell, Margaret Curtis, Betty Jameson, Kay Cockerill, Kelli Kuehne and Danielle Kang – have gone back-to-back.

The U.S. Women’s Amateur has long identified some of golf’s greatest female players, many of whom have gone on to successful professional careers. Along with the champions listed above, Patty Berg (who won the first U.S. Women’s Open in 1946), Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Marlene Stewart Streit, Anne Quast Sander, Barbara McIntire, Catherine Lacoste, Carol Semple Thompson, Beth Daniel, Morgan Pressel and Lydia Ko have secured a place in golf history, and plenty of them started their rise at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

In the history of women’s golf in the United States, no tournament has been more important for amateurs than the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Come next week in Los Angeles, it will add another historic chapter to its books, and there’s a chance the next star will begin to shine after hoisting the Robert Cox Trophy.