Three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Susie Maxwell Berning likely never imagined her name being said in the same breath as “Tiger Woods,” but that’s exactly what happened Wednesday evening when the two shared the stage as inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Maxwell Berning, Woods, Marion Hollins (posthumously) and retired PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem were among the Class of 2022 HOF inductees honored Wednesday at Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., which plays host to this week’s The Players Championship – considered the “fifth major” in men’s golf.
“Tiger, I know it’s hard for you to believe, but as young as I am, I won all of my tournaments before you were born,” said 80-year-old Maxwell Berning, earning big laughs during her induction speech. “And by the way, Tiger, my three U.S. Opens – the total winnings was $16,000. I was wondering if you’d like to swap checks? Perhaps, if not all, we could do one?”
"Tiger I know it's hard for you to believe, but as young as I am, I won all of my tournaments before you were born." 😂
— Golf Hall of Fame (@GolfHallofFame) March 10, 2022
Among Maxwell Berning’s career achievements are four major championships and 11 career LPGA titles – four of which came after giving birth to her first child in 1970. The mother of two daughters, Robin and Cindy, recalled having to withdraw once from an event because she couldn’t find childcare.
“I withdrew from a tournament in San Diego because I couldn’t find a babysitter,” Maxwell Berning recently told Golfweek, noting that she began playing the LPGA part-time after 1977 once her eldest daughter reached school age.
Her golf career actually started by accident. As a young teen in Oklahoma City, she was walking her 9-month-old colt, Joker, around a bridal path and the horse bolted across the nearby Lincoln Park Golf Course. When maintenance workers threatened to call the cops on the 13-year-old, Maxwell Berning says she struck a deal with the club’s the head pro, U.C. Ferguson, agreeing to teach his two young children to ride in exchange for letting the incident go.
She picked up Ferguson’s kids every Saturday for riding lessons, but one day the pro suggested she tie up her horse and head to the range where none other than Patty Berg, founding member and first president of the LPGA, was giving a raucous clinic.
A 14-and-a-half-year-old Maxwell Berning was hooked. “They were having so much fun,” she recalled of that fateful day.
Less than two years later, the 16-year-old sold her two horses for $150 and bought a car so she could drive to the golf course.
Maxwell Berning won the Oklahoma City Women’s Amateur three times and became the first woman to earn a golf scholarship at Oklahoma City University, where she played on the men’s team.
“I played under ‘Sam Maxwell’ during my college days,” she told Golfweek, explaining the moniker was given to her when an opposing coach asked about the player listed on the roster as “S. Maxwell.”
“Is it Steve or Sam?” he asked, to which her coach, Abe Lemons, replied: “Sam will do.”
She turned pro in 1964, winning $450 in her first LPGA event – the Muskogee Civitan Open – on home soil in Oklahoma and earning LPGA Rookie of the Year honors. Maxwell Berning captured her first major at the 1965 Women’s Western Open with her three U.S. Women’s Open titles following in 1968, 1972 and 1973.
She remains one of only six women to have won the U.S. Open three times and one of just 12 players (man or woman) to win three or more of the coveted titles along with Mickey Wright (4), Jack Nicklaus (4), Betsy Rawls (4), Ben Hogan (4), Willie Anderson (4), Bobby Jones (4), Babe Zaharias (3), Tiger Woods (3), Annika Sorenstam (3), Hollis Stacy (3) and Hale Irwin (3).
Marion Hollis, suffragette and U.S. Amateur champion, changed golf’s landscape
Also joining the WGHOF Class of ’22 is Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, the first U.S. Curtis Cup captain and the first woman to develop golf courses, who was recognized posthumously.
Hollins, who was born in 1892 and grew up on a 600-acre farm in Long Island, N.Y., was the daughter of Harry B. Hollins, an investment banker and advisor to financier J.P. Morgan. She raced cars, held the distinction of being the only woman in the U.S. with a men’s polo handicap and was an accomplished equestrienne, driving four-in-hand horse carriages – including driving a team from Buffalo to Manhattan to sell war bonds in World War I.
Hollins marched with Suffragettes in New York City, and it was her equality-driven spirit that led her to establish the Women’s National Golf & Tennis Club on Long Island in the 1920s. When the male members of The Creek Club decided to disallow women golfers, she was part of a group of local women who purchased 176 acres and created the all-women club that lasted 18 years.
Marion Hollins' accomplishments on the golf course were many, but it was her accomplishments in business and course development that would be her ultimate legacy.
— Golf Hall of Fame (@GolfHallofFame) March 10, 2022
Her golf career included numerous amateur titles including the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and as the playing captain of the U.S. team at the inaugural Curtis Cup matches, where the U.S. defeated England, 5 1/2 to 3 1/2. She later shifted her attention within the sport, becoming a golf course architect, developer of the first planned golf community and an investor, contributing to the development of California’s Monterey Peninsula into a golf mecca.
Hollis is known for making significant contributions to Cypress Point Club and in particular its iconic 16th hole – a fierce par-3 that sits along the coastal cliff and features a 200-yard carry over the ocean. Insisting that the carry would be impossible, famed architects Seth Raynor and Alister MacKenzie (who went on to design Augusta National Golf Club) dismissed the notion of constructing a hole there.
But Hollins insisted it could be done, and legend has it, she teed up a ball and landed it precisely where she envisioned placing the green. Then she did it twice more.
“To give honor where it is due,” MacKenzie wrote in The Spirit of St. Andrews. “I must say that, except, for minor details in construction, I was in no way responsible for the hole. It was largely due to the vision of Miss Marion Hollins.”
“Not only did she establish a thrilling golf course there, but she assembled a club membership befitting that location – one that included both men and women from the very beginning,” said Dick Barrett, president of Cypress Point Club, who presented Hollis at the induction ceremony.
Hollins also established the Pebble Beach Golf Championship for Women, which she won seven times. The competition is credited with convincing the United States Golf Association to hold its amateur championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links in September 1929, which drew Bobby Jones as an entrant.
Jones lost in the first round of that event and headed over to the opening of a new golf course community founded by Hollins, Pasatiempo Golf Club and Estates. Hollins’ relationship with Jones became key to developing Augusta National, including Jones’ selection of MacKenzie as co-designer and using Pasatiempo as a blueprint for development.
Hollins, who turned a $100,000 investment in a “dry” California oil field into a $10 million windfall, lost her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. In 1937, Hollins was driving home after visiting a friend in the hospital when a drunken driver collided with her car. She suffered head injuries that hampered her activity but she won one more Pebble Beach title in 1941. She passed away in 1944 at age 51.
With the addition of Berning and Hollins, 41 women have been inducted into the WGHO, with the last being legendary golf instructor Peggy Kirk Bell (lifetime achievement category) and three-time major champion Jan Stephenson (competitor category) in 2019.
Additionally on Wednesday, the WGHOF recognized Renee Powell, 75, with the Charlie Sifford Award for advancing diversity in golf. Powell is the second Black woman to play on the LPGA Tour (1967-80). Since 1995, Powell has served as the head PGA/LPGA professional at Ohio’s Clearview Golf Club, which her father – William Powell – established in 1946 as the first U.S. golf course designed, built, owned and operated by a Black man.