The Amazing Babe Zaharias Golf Story & Overcoming the Odds

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Babe Zaharias golf story is one for the books, but did you know she was gold-medal olympian and a minor league baseball player? While not widely known, she remains one of greatest women golfers and most versatile atheletes of all time.

She was one of the greatest athletes in the U.S. She had made her mark in multiple sports. She had a very astonishing career in golf. She is recognized as the first female superstar of golf in American history. 

Early Life

Born on June 26, 1911,  in Port Arthur, Texas as Mildred Ella Didriksen. Her parents, Ole and Hannah Didriksen were originally from Norway and wanted to start a better life with their seven children. Babe originally spelled her name Didriksen and later changed it to Didrikson.

At an early age, she was nicknamed “Babe” after Babe Ruth due to her keen interest in baseball and hitting 5 home runs.

Her parents migrated from Norway to the U.S. She was a multitalented athlete. She participated in track and field and earned a lot of fame from that event.

Becoming a Golfer

Babe Didrikson started playing golf in 1935. She was a latecomer in the sport for which later, she became the most famous. Her amateur status was dismissed for a short time.

She participated in the PGA Tour’s Los Angeles Open in January 1938. She again started to play golf as an amateur in 1943. This gave her more chances to compete in different kinds of events. She later turned to professional golf.

Career Discrimination

She faced some financial challenges as her parents were not so rich. She had done some part-time jobs to meet her athletic expenses. While playing golf, she had to face a lot of opposition and discrimination due to her status as a woman. She took all that resistance as a challenge.

Professional Career

Mildred Babe Zaharias Golf Photo (Didrikson)
Babe Zaharias Golf Photo (Didrikson)

Babe Zaharias started professional golf in 1947. She had 48 professional wins (41 LPGA Tour wins, 7 Others) on the golf course. The 10 major championships are included in 48 wins.

When Babe first joined the LPGA Tour in 1950, she also completed what was the Career Grand Slam in the same year. She became one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour. In the archive of sports, she is still considered one of history’s greatest athletes of all time.

Babe Zaharias Tour

She had played in almost all the tours and champion trophies in her time except U.S. Open. Because USGA rejected her application. They said that only men were eligible to attend that event.

Accomplishments in Sports 

Babe was not a good student, and dropped out of school for some time. But she was an excellent athlete from her childhood. She grabbed worldwide attention at the age of 21. As she performed very well in the Amateur Athletic Union Championships.

After finishing her studies, she had the struggle to earn a living. She succeeded in getting a job as a secretary for a company. She was a part of the industrial team (the Golden Cyclones) of that company in AAU ( Amateur Athletic Union ). Formerly she had shown great athletic potential in track and field and All-American status in basketball.

She competed in eight of the ten events at the 1932 AAU Championships on behalf of her company. She won five of them completely and tied for first in the sixth. Didrikson’s efforts alone were enough for her team to win the team championship. At the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, she set four world records. She won two gold medals and one silver medal in track and field. 

Babe Zaharias Golf Wins

Babe began playing golf seriously in the 1930s. She rose to prominence and became the game’s top player in the 1940s and 1950s. She became the first American lady to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1946 and the British Ladies’ Amateur in 1947. She also won three Women’s Western Opens. She won the Babe Zaharias Open in Beaumont, Texas, a competition that bears her name.

She won 17 consecutive amateur female wins. She had won every golf title available by 1950. Zaharias won a total of 82 golf competitions, including both her amateur and professional wins.

LPGA Awards

She won all of the titles in golf and many awards in her career. Some are listed below:

  • LPGA Tour Money Winner (1950, 1951) 
  • LPGA Vare Trophy (1954) 
  • Associated Press (1932, 1945, 1946, 1947,) 
  • Female Athlete of the Year (1950, 1954) 

Read Next: The 10 Best Golf Clubs for Senior Women [Expert Review]

Babe Zaharias Golf Course

The Babe Zaharias Golf Course, known to locals as “The Babe” is situated in Tampa, Florida. It was originally built in 1926 which included riding stables. Zaharias purchased it in 1949 and spent time hosting clinics and playing with the men’s club. Rumor has it, she also lived on the second floor of the clubhouse for a period.

Following her death, the Babe Zaharias Golf Course became abandoned and overgrown. By 1962, the clubhouse was a hang-out for teenagers and transients, which inevitably resulted in being burnt down.

This 18-hole golf course is now part of the Florida Historic Golf Trail and is owned by the City of Tampa since 1974. Both local and out-of-town golfers may enjoy this historical place.

Additional Information:

  • Address: 11412 N Forest Hills Dr, Tampa, FL
  • Phone: (813) 631-4375
  • Website: Babe Zaharias Golf Course “The Babe”

Babe Zaharias Museum 

The Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum & Visitor Center is located in Beaumont, Texas. It is situated in front of Interstate 10 and opens to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

This museum honors the legacy and life of golfing star as well as her many other successes. It has a fabulous collection of her trophies, medals, sports gear, as well as personal i

Babe Zaharias Personal Life

Babe Didrikson married in 1938 to a professional wrestler George Zaharias. After that, she became Babe Didrikson Zaharias, or most often shortened to Babe Zaharias. She had excellent personal branding skills.

She along with her husband did a trip to Australia a few months after their wedding. There George arranged a golf exhibition for her.

Together they settled in Tampa, Florida. While they were unable to have kids, it had been their hope to adopt. According to sources, they were denied due to stringent requirements of the times.

In 1953, Babe Zaharias had diagnosed with colon cancer. In 1954, after undergoing surgery, she was able to make a short-lived comeback. Impressively, she won the U.S. Women’s Open and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average a full month after having colostomy surgery. This was her 10th and final major victory. She died at the age of 45 years on September 27, 1956.

Babe Zaharias Fun Facts

  • Gold Medal Winner – 1932 Olympics for the Javelin Throw
  • Gold Medal Winner – 1932 Olympics for the 80-meter hurdles
  • Silver Medal Winner – 1932 Olympics – Track, High Jump
  • In 1934, she played in spring training for Major League exhibition games.
  • Babe performed on the vaudeville circuit and even did some acting in films.
  • In 2021, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Posthumous award)

Read Next: All You Need to Know About Bobby Jones’ Mashie Niblick

Babe Zaharias AutoBiography

If you have an interest in learning more about Babe Zaharias, there are multiple books written about her. “This Life I Ve Led My Autobiography” is her own story and is available for free through the US public domain or you can purchase a printed copy from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

Success in any field of life lies in determination and consistency. As much as you are consistent, the chances of your success have greater potential. If you have a challenging and adventurous nature, it might be a plus point in your case.

Babe Zaharias was an incredible athlete that died before her time. While she was not from a rich family, her natural abilities, grit, and determination brought her the fruit of success. From her childhood, she was more interested in athletics than anything else. The goal of her life once she revealed, was to be “the greatest athlete to ever live”.   

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Erin has spent over 17 years as a healthcare executive working with seniors in nursing homes, skilled nursing, assisted living, and independent living communities. She also holds a Masters Degree in Social Work and other advanced degrees related to seniors.  Erin grew up playing golf in a family of golf fanatics. She started this site to help others add more enjoyment to the game of life through golf.