Babe Didrikson Zaharias: Golf’s Superstar
The Babe Zaharias Golf Course
Born in Texas to Norwegian immigrants, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson was known for her tomboy behavior and was no stranger to sports. Before settling on golf as her sport, Babe was skilled and accomplished in various track and field events as well as basketball among a long list of many others. 1932 marked the year that she would set her eyes on golf and 3 years later in 1935 she would reinvent herself to have a more feminine image. In 1938 she married her husband, George Zaharias, who was a wrestler, and continued to play and dominate the world of golf.
In 1943, George May, a Chicago sports entrepreneur, founded the Women’s Professional Golf association (WPGA), an organization that would attempt to support women golfers but would fall short. The many short comings of the WPGA can be attributed to amateur organizations not approving of women golfers and ultimately pressuring clubs to refuse the WPGA. After the failure of the WPGA, Babe, George, their associate Patty Berg, and Fred Cochran, created the LPGA, or Ladies Professional Golf Association. Babe was at the forefront of the LPGA organization and was known to many as the star player. Unfortunately, all of the fame accrued by the women of the group did not do much to assist the women in receiving respect from their hosts. After many hours and miles of travel, the women would be expected to set up the courses for optimal play, as the courses were often in rough shape. Through all the hardships, Babe played on, winning tournament after tournament all around the world. Here in Tampa, she won the Tampa Open in 1947 and 1951.
In 1949, Babe purchased the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club and renamed it the Tampa Golf and Country Club. After this purchase she spent much of her time at the course playing on her own or with the local men’s club. Babe and George lived in Tampa for the remainder of Babes life, up until her death in 1956 at the mercy of colon cancer. After her death the course fell into disarray, with the course itself becoming overgrown and the club house becoming a hangout spot for the local teens. In 1974 the city of Tampa reopened the course, placing it under the Tampa Sports Authority. The Babe Zaharias Golf Course is still functioning today and is a reminder of the many strides Babe made for women in not only golf, but in all sports alike.