The U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship was established in 1949, one year after the Junior Amateur Championship. Philadelphia (Pa.) Country Club, one of the oldest golf courses in the nation, was the host club for the USGA’s newest championship. The Club’s Bala Course had been constructed in 1891, three years before the birth of the USGA.
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The inaugural U.S. Girls’ Junior drew a starting field of 28 girls from 17 states, although 10 of the players were from the Philadelphia area.
More impressive than the size of the field or the styles of play was the wonderful spirit and sportsmanship the contestants brought to the game, and their complete lack of pretense.
The first champion, Marlene Bauer, 15, came all the way from Los Angeles to win her first national golf title. While golf for girls, beyond the club level, was still a novelty, Marlene had been encouraged by her father, a golf professional, since the age of three. Her victory in the first Girls’ Junior was the springboard for a long and distinguished career.
The Championship has also helped launch the careers of such outstanding players as Mickey Wright, who won in 1952, and later captured four U.S. Women’s Open championships, and JoAnne Gunderson Carner, who won the first of her eight USGA titles in the 1956 Girls’ Junior. Nancy Lopez won in 1972 and 1974, interupted in 1973 by Amy Alcott, who went on to win the Women’s Open in 1980.
Considering the brevity and time limitations on a junior golf career, Hollis Stacy’s record of three consecutive Girls’ Junior Championships, from 1969 to 1971, is among the most remarkable accomplishments in USGA history. Hollis, however, never made it easy. The final matches of her first two championships went 18 holes. In her last victory, in 1971, Hollis needed four-under-par golf to eventually defeat Amy Alcott at the 19th hole. From the third through the 17th hole, neither player made a bogey; between them they made nine birdies. The match is regarded as one of the finest in USGA history.
With her last victory, Stacy became only the seventh golfer to win USGA championships in three successive years. She later won the Women’s Open Championship in 1977, 1978, and 1984.
Kay Cornelius, the 1981 winner, is among the other noteworthy champions. Her mother, Kathy Cornelius, won the 1956 U.S. Women’s Open. They remain the only mother-daughter team to have captured USGA championships.
While victory in the U.S. Girls’ Junior by no means guarantees a successful career in women’s golf, Girls’ Junior champions have won the Women’s Amateur and the Women’s Open a remarkable 10 times each.
Furthermore, 17 Girls’ Junior champions have gone on to represent the United States on the Curtis Cup team.