100 YEARS: Dorothy Higbie Represents Michigan Women’s Golfon International Stage
Written By: email@example.com
Pictured: Dorothy Higbie’s portrait that is part of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame collection
100 Years, A GAM Special Series: This is the second of 10 stories leading up to the 100th Michigan Women’s Amateur, Aug. 8-12, at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden.
Dorothy Higbie, or Mrs. Harley G. Higbie as it is listed in the archives, took Michigan women’s golf international in 1932 when she was unanimously selected to represent the United States in the inaugural Curtis Cup Matches versus Great Britain.
The Country Club of Detroit member had already won three Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship titles in 1925, ’26 and ’31, added a fourth that year and a fifth and third consecutive in ’33.
Her national reputation which earned her the Curtis Cup nod came from being a 10-time qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, reaching the quarterfinals in 1929 and being qualifying medalist in 1931. At masterworksofgolf.com, in the collection of vintage golf pictures, is a tiny photo of Dorothy playing golf with 1913 U.S. Open and two-time U.S. Amateur champion Francis Ouimet in what is apparently an exhibition of some sort.
John Walter was a sports writer for the Detroit News for 45 years and golf was his beat. In Alleen Sell’s history of the Women’s Michigan Golf Association he is given great credit for covering and bringing to life the stories of women’s golf in the state over the years. He shared extensive files, clippings and information with the WMGA. He also penned several stories about Dorothy Higbie, including one that revealed why she didn’t play in the 1934 championship.
“Mrs. Higbie dominated the Michigan Women’s Golf Championship as no other state titleholder,” he wrote. “She was a finalist seven times in 11 years (1925-’35), winning the Michigan title five times. Mrs. Higbie was the ‘uncrowned champion’ for the sixth year in the minds of many. In 1934, she had won four in a row, but left her title undefended as she had made a date with her two sons, Harley Jr., and Hugo, to go fishing. It turned out the most expedient time for fishing even though it coincided with the state championship dates.”
Dorothy, a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, had a most significant and interesting rival on the women’s scene in Vi Hanley, or Mrs. Stewart Hanley, who won the Women’s Amateur Championship four times. Together the two won their collective nine titles in the 11-year span from 1924-’34. They met twice in the final match with Dorothy winning in 1925 and Vi winning in 1930.
Vi, a world traveler and Oakland Hills Country Club member who wrote about “Far East unglazed ceramics” for her University of Michigan Master’s Degree thesis, did not take up the game until her 30s, and after World War II worked as a member of the University of Michigan Physical Education staff and taught golf. Under the United States Golf Association rules at the time she was declared a professional because she was teaching the game, and it took her more than 20 persistent years to obtain her amateur standing once again in 1966.
“I never played in any tournament as a pro,” she told the writer of a regular golf season Detroit Free Press column called “Dottie Duffer” in 1965. “Now you’re permitted to write about golf and still remain an amateur; you can teach any other sport besides golf and still be an amateur, but the USGA will not stand for a person to teach golf.”
Adeline Booth’s (Mrs. Charles Hague Booth) first of two stints as president of the WMGA marked the second decade of the championship. She started keeping records from year-to-year in 1924 and introduced the first constitution and by-laws for the association. Later in life she also was instrumental in establishing the first junior golf groups for girls and boys in Detroit.
Her record-keeping reveals in the 11th championship in 1924 there were 70 entries for the championship hosted by Oakland Hills Country Club. Vi Hanley beat Mrs. Sidney R. Small of Country Club of Detroit, who would later be the 1928 champion, in the title match. Despite other details, a score was not recorded.
Prior to 1932 the tournament was open to only members of the association, but that year a motion carried to invite other Michigan residents to participate at the discretion of the board.
The 20th championship, in 1933, was hosted by Meadowbrook Country Club. Entries were 82, and the bank balance for the WMGA was $82.98 after prizes were purchased. That year marked the last of Dorothy Higbie’s five wins. Jean Kyer of Barton Hills Country Club was the runner-up.