Marion Hollins: Amateur Champ Who Developed Famous Golf Courses

golfer marion hollins
Marion Hollins was a top amateur golfer of the 1920s, including being a U.S. Women's Amateur winner. But her biggest lasting impact on golf was being the driving force between the creation of three golf clubs, including one course that is still considered one of the very best in the world.

Date of birth: December 3, 1892

Place of birth: East Islip, New York

Date of death: August 27, 1944 in Santa Cruz, California

Nickname: The Golden Girl

Hollins In the U.S. Women's Amateur

Marion Hollins first played in the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1912, but her first brush with fame was in the 1913 tournament. That year, Hollins defeated Harriot Curtis (one of the namesakes of the Curtis Cup) in the semifinals on the 20th hole. In the short history of the tournament to that point, that was the longest semifinal match yet played.

In the 1913 championship match, however, Hollins fells to Gladys Ravenscroft, 2-down.

In 1920, Hollins set a new tournament scoring record in the stroke-play qualifying when she was medalist with an 82. She reached the quarterfinals that year before falling to one of the giants of early amateur women's golf, Dorothy Campbell. And Hollins reached the quarterfinals in 1928 before bowing out to Virgina Van Wie.

Her U.S. Women's Amateur victory happened in 1921, when she beat Alexa Stirling (who was trying to win for the fourth consecutive time) in the championship match by a 5-and-4 score. It was the first 36-hole final in tournament history.

Golf Course Development and Assist to Augusta National

Hollins inherited millions of dollars from her father (more on him below), and she turned to golf course development first using that inheritance. In fact, Hollins was the first woman (and the only woman, at least until very recent times) to work as a golf course developer.

Her first club was The Women's National Golf and Tennis Club in Glen Head, New York. Wanting control over the development and design process, Hollins traveled to the U.K. to research golf course architecture. She returned with photos and ideas that she shared with the designer of her choice, Devereux Emmet.

She met teaching legend Ernest Jones (Swing the Clubhead, affiliate link) on that scouting trip, and hired him as the club's first professional. The club no longer exists, but the golf course that was built does: It is Glen Head Country Club today.

golfer marion hollins

In 1926, Hollins traveled to California and got involved in the development of the Monterey Peninsula, which had begun in earnest with the opening of Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1919. She created a real estate company and set out to create a new golf club.

Her second golf course was Cypress Point, which she hired Alister MacKenzie to design and worked with him to bring their shared vision to fruition. Cypress Point was an immediate hit — Bobby Jones traveled to play it and Hollins introduced him to MacKenzie — and still, today, is considered one of the best golf courses on the planet. Most years it is ranked in the Top 10 of global courses, and some years, within some rankings, it has even been No. 1.

A year later, the Hollins-developed and MacKenzie-designed course at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California, opened, with Ernest Jones, who also traveled west, as its first pro. The christening round of golf featured Hollins and Bobby Jones playing Cyril Tolley and Glenna Collett.

What is Hollins' connection to Augusta National Golf Club? We've already mentioned part of it: She introduced Jones to MacKenzie, whom Jones — a huge fan of Cypress Point — chose to design Augusta National.

After MacKenzie got to work on the future home of The Masters, however, there came an occasion when, due to health reasons, he was unable to travel to the site. He told Jones' partner Clifford Roberts he would send Hollins in his place for a site inspection. Roberts made it clear he wasn't interest in having any woman work on his golf course.

But Hollins did go and stand in for MacKenzie. After Roberts' objections, MacKenzie wrote a letter to Jones in which he explained of Hollins that "not only are her own ideas valuable, but she is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of work I like. I want her views and her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out. I do not know of any man who has sounder ideas."

Hollins and Jones remained good friends for the rest of her life.

More About Marion Hollins

Hollins was born into privilege as the daughter of H.B. Hollins, who owned a Wall Street brokerage firm. As a child, she knew the Prince of Wales — the future King Edward VIII — who was a friend of her father's and a visitor to their family estate. Other of her father's friends included William Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan, who was also a business partner.

Hollins' first love wasn't golf, but equestrian: The New York Times (the Hollins family often showed up in New York newspapers, on both business and society pages) once called her the greatest horsewoman in the country. She also excelled among local competition in tennis, swimming and target shooting.

Hollins didn't even start playing competitive golf (her father was also the first president of the Metropolitan Golf Association) until age 19. But a year later she was runner-up in the 1912 Metropolitan Golf Association Championship. In 1913, she won it, and later (1919, 1921) won it twice more.

In addition to her MGA titles and her 1921 U.S. Amateur crown, Hollins' golf tournament wins included the Long Island Championship (twice) and the Pebble Beach Championships eight times.

As a golfer, she was best-known for a very fluid swing. To keep her the timing and rhythm of her swing good, she often swung while humming composer Franz Lehar's song "The Merry Widow Waltz."

When the Curtis Cup was created, Hollins was chosen as captain for Team USA in the inaugural 1932 Curtis Cup. She led her team to a 2-point victory.

At one time, through her real estate ventures, owning horses, and oil holdings, Hollins had become wealthy independent of her family's money. But later, in a depressed real estate market, she lost almost everything. She was 51 years old when she died of cancer in 1944.

Hollins is a member of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame and a member of the Metropolitan Golf Association Hall of Merit. In 2020, she chosen an inductee in the Class of 2021 to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The actor Justin Theroux is a great-grandnephew of Hollins. For an in-depth biography of Hollins, the book Champion In a Man's World (affiliate link) by David Outerbridge is a good choice.

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