This year is the 50th anniversary of Catherine Lacoste’s milestone as the only amateur to win the United States Women’s Open, and it has stirred more interest than usual in the French golfer’s decorated past.
Fifty years ago, Catherine Lacoste towered over the greatest women golfers in the world. She snatched the 1967 U.S. Women’s Open title out of the grasp of professionals and two years later ended the long reign of Americans in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. In 1969, she swept four national titles. Tour de force! After Lacoste won the Women’s Open at age 22, she went on to win national women’s amateur championships in the United States, Britain, France and Spain in 1968 and 1969 – an unorthodox international tournament schedule at the time for European women. She became only the second international player — behind the pro Fay Crocker of Uruguay in 1955 — to win the U.S. Women’s Open. She was also the first French player to win one of the L.P.G.A.’s major championships — followed by the pro Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, the next golfer from France, who won the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship.Lacoste was the daughter of French tennis legend Rene Lacoste, who also founded the apparel company that carries the family name. Her mother, Simone de la Chaume, won the 1927 British Ladies Amateur – the tournament Catherine would also win 42 years later. Catherine took up golf at Chantaco Golf Club – founded by her parents – in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, and quickly dominated the junior circuit in her region. She developed a powerful game – which many years later called her “arguably the most powerful player of her era.” She remains the only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open. She was also the first European winner of that tournament and, at the time, the youngest.