Jameson, Elizabeth May [Betty] (1919–2009)


By: Trevor White

Type: Biography

Published: April 14, 2021

Updated: March 9, 2022


Elizabeth May “Betty” Jameson, a pioneer of women’s professional golf, was born in Norman, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1919. As a child, she moved to Dallas, Texas, with her parents, Allen Melvin and Bess L. (Ransdell) Jameson, and she later relocated to San Antonio, Texas. When Betty was only eleven years old, her mother gave her money to cover the greens fee and rent clubs to play at a public golf course near Dallas. The money was well-invested; by her fourteenth birthday she had a state championship title and was the first female athlete in history to represent a Dallas high school varsity sports team. She broke the Dallas Country Club course record by shooting a 72 in the second round of the 1934 Women’s Texas Golf Association tournament.

After she won her second state title in 1937, Jameson attended the University of Texas at Austin and was mentored by professional golfer and coach Harvey Penick. By 1940 Jameson had won multiple state championships, set a new course record for the Austin Country Club, and was the first Texan in history to win the National Women’s amateur golf championship. By 1942 she had won fourteen significant amateur championships, but the outbreak of World War II almost completely suspended tournament play due to needed support for the war effort. She was working as a reporter for the San Antonio Light in 1945 when she signed a three-year contract with the sporting goods manufacturer Spalding, which began her career as a professional golfer.

As a pro she established herself when she became the first female golfer to score a sub-300 score in a 72-hole tournament on her way to winning the 1947 U.S. Women’s Open. She was treated by the press as one of the “Glamour Girls” of American women’s golf. In 1950 Jameson joined thirteen other founding ladies to begin the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). In 1951 Jameson was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Women’s Golf, and the next year she created a special trophy for the LPGA tour’s lowest scorer for each year named after her hero, Glenna Collett Vare. The Vare Trophy is still awarded today. In 1967 she was one of six inaugural members of the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame. Jameson won twelve events during her professional career before she retired in 1970.

Jameson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2000, during the LPGA’s fiftieth anniversary, she was recognized as one of the association’s top fifty players and teachers. Jameson earned approximately $91,740 through her professional career, which was a considerable sum for those times, but not nearly enough to support her for the rest of her life. In the decade before her death, she lived on significantly restricted means. No longer able to play golf due to carpal tunnel syndrome, she spent her free time painting. At the age of eighty-nine, Elizabeth May Jameson died on February 7, 2009, at Boynton Beach, Florida, following surgery.

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Tyler Conlin, “Elizabeth May ‘Betty’ Jameson,” GolfAustin.org (http://www.golfaustin.org/our-golf-community/history-of-golf-in-austin/betty-jameson), accessed December 7, 2018. Ladies Professional Golf Association, “LPGA Hall of Fame History” (http://www.lpga.com/players/lpga-hall-of-fame/lpga-hall-of-fame-history), accessed December 7, 2018. Del Lemon, “Jameson, Elizabeth May,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=JA010), accessed December 7, 2018. New York Times, February 9, 2009. Palm Beach Post, February 9, 2009. World Golf Hall of Fame: Betty Jameson (http://www.worldgolfhalloffame.org/betty-jameson), accessed December 7, 2018.

Categories:
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Golf)
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • Central Texas
  • Austin
  • San Antonio
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Trevor White, “Jameson, Elizabeth May [Betty],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/jameson-elizabeth-may.

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April 14, 2021
March 9, 2022

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