Alexa Stirling (Fraser): Bio of the Famous Golfer

Golfer Alexa Stirling Fraser

Alexa Stirling, also known as Alexa Fraser and Alexa Stirling Fraser, was one of the best players in women's golf in the late 1910s to the early 1930s. A childhood friend of Bobby Jones, she won three U.S. Women's Amateur Championships.

Date of birth: September 5, 1897

Place of birth: Atlanta, Georgia

Date and place of death: April 15, 1977 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Nickname: In the press, Stirling was sometimes called "The First Lady of East Lake" (after East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta) and "The Empress of Golf."

Stirling's Biggest Wins

  • 1915 Southern Amateur
  • 1916 U.S. Women's Amateur
  • 1916 Southern Amateur
  • 1919 U.S. Women's Amateur
  • 1919 Southern Amateur
  • 1920 U.S. Women's Amateur
  • 1920 Canadian Women's Amateur
  • 1934 Canadian Women's Amateur

Alexa Stirling and Bobby Jones

One of Stirling's nicknames, "The Empress of Golf," is a play on one of Jones' nicknames, "The Emperor of Golf." For golf fans of their era, they were often linked together.

From the same hometown, they grew up together playing golf at East Lake Golf Club. They learned from the same instructor, Stewart Maiden, and played many rounds together both as children and into their 20s.

Stirling's family lived near the 10th tee at East Lake. The New York Times obituary for Stirling told this story:

"One of her playmates in the area was Bobby Jones, who became one of the biggest names in men's golf. But Alexa beat Jones in her first tournament. The trophy, however, was awarded to Jones because the starter, Frank Meador, figured: 'We couldn't have a girl beating us.' "
In an interview shortly before her death in 1977, Stirling said of that tournament, "I had an advantage over Bob those days. I was 12, and he was only 7, and I have to be honest: It wasn't very long until he was defeating me."

In 1917-18, during World War I, a group of teenage golf stars from the Atlanta area, headlined by Jones (only in his mid-teens) and Stirling (who had already won her first U.S. Women's Amateur title at 18), went on an exhibition tour of the United States, raising money for the Red Cross. They were known as the "Dixie Kids."

Alexa and Bobby last saw one another in 1950, when Stirling, then living in Canada, returned to East Lake for the 50th edition of the U.S. Women's Amateur. Jones picked her up at the train station and they spent several days together.

In 1976, Stirling again returned to Atlanta for the U.S. Open, being played at Atlanta Athletic Club's new home (AAC was the original club at East Lake golf course). She visited a room in the clubhouse displaying memorabilia. One of the items on display was that trophy given to Jones in the tournament that had actually been won by the 12-year-old Stirling.

More About Alexa Stirling

Bobby Jones called Stirling, "Quiet and competitive," and "small, but wiry, and possess(ing) unusual stamina."

Joyce Wethered, considered the greatest women golfer of the first half of the 1900s, said of Stirling, "I ... was greatly struck by her beautiful style of play, the neatness and deliberation of her swing and the gracefulness of her poise in playing the shots."

And one of Stirling's rivals in the 1920s, Glenna Collett Vare, wrote about her:

"The first thing about Alexa that attracted my admiration was her wonderful poise, especially under fire. She was never flustered, never hurried. I believed that she possessed the perfect temperament for a golfer."
Stirling was only 12 years old when she won her first East Lake club championship. At age 13, she began attracting more widespread attention when she was low qualifier at the Women's Southern Golf Association championship.

In addition to Jones, her Atlanta friends included pro J. Douglas Edgar, a PGA Tour winner, from whom she also took lessons.

She was 17 when she won the 1915 Southern Amateur, and 18 years old — the youngest champion to that date — when she won her first U.S. Women's Amateur title in 1916. Maiden, her instructor, was in the crowd at that tournament, and the Atlanta Journal newspaper reported that Stirling attracted the biggest crowds "partly on account of her youth but more because of her skill coupled with businesslike tactics in going after what she wants."

Because the tournament was canceled in 1917-18 due to World War I, when Stirling won the U.S. Women's Amateur again in 1919 and 1920, she had won it three consecutive times.

In the 1920 championship match, Stirling defeated Dorothy Campbell, 5 and 4. Campbell was another giant of early women's golf (although a generation older than Stirling) who, like Stirling eventually would, settled in Canada.

In addition to her wins, Stirling was runner-up in the USWA in 1921, 1923 and 1925, in the 1925 championship match losing to Glenna Collett. In the stroke-play qualifying rounds that year, Stirling carded a 77 that was, at that time, the tournament record.

In 1920, Stirling added the Canadian Women's Amateur to her USWA title. She was runner-up in the CWA in 1921 and 1925.

Also in 1925, Stirling married Canadian Dr. Wilbert Fraser, and she lived in Ottawa the rest of her life. They had three children together, and she was mostly known as Alexa Fraser or (in American publications) Alexa Stirling Fraser from that point.

Stirling was made an honorary member of Royal Ottawa Golf Club and won the club championship nine times. She still occasionally competed in higher level tournaments, too, and won the Canadian Women's Amateur again in 1934, her last significant title.

Stirling died at the age of 79 in 1977, one year after her final visit to Atlanta during the 1976 U.S. Open.

Today, Stirling is a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (class of 1978), Canadian Golf Hall of Fame (1986) and Georgia Golf Hall of Fame (1989).

In the 2004 movie Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (Amazon link), Stirling was portrayed on film by actor and former Golf Channel personality Stephanie Sparks.

Photo credit: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. (1860 - 1920). Alexa Stirling Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-bc04-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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