Simone de la Chaume: Bio of French Golf Pioneer

Golfer Simone de la Chaume
Simone de la Chaume was a pioneer of women's golf in France who recorded a couple of notable firsts in British tournaments in the 1920s. She remained the dominant female golfer in France through the pre-World War II period. De la Chaume was one-half of a glamorous sports couple, and that couple's daughter later outdid her mother on the golf course.

Full name: Simone Thion de la Chaume

Date of birth: November 24, 1908

Place of birth: Paris, France

Date and place of death: September 4, 2001 in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

Also known as: Simone Lacoste

De la Chaume's Biggest Wins

  • 1924 British Girls Amateur Championship
  • 1926 French Ladies Open
  • 1927 British Ladies Amateur
  • 1927 French Ladies Open
  • 1929 French Ladies Close
  • 1930 French Ladies Close
  • 1930 French Ladies Open
  • 1935 French Ladies Open
  • 1936 French Ladies Close
  • 1937 French Ladies Close
  • 1938 French Ladies Close
  • 1938 French Ladies Open
  • 1939 French Ladies Open

Historic Firsts for de la Chaume

De la Chaume recorded a couple of historic firsts in what were then the biggest tournaments in junior golf and women's golf, respectively, and are still today the top European tournaments in those categories: the British Girls Amateur Championship and British Women's Amateur Championship.

De la Chaume wasn't just the first French golfer to win each, she was the first non-British champion in each. In the Girls Amateur, de la Chaume won the 1924 tournament with a 4-and-2 victory over Dorothy Pearson.

Three years later, the 18-year-old de la Chaume became the first French winner, and the first non-British winner, of the British Ladies Amateur Championship. Just as in 1924, in 1927 her victim in the championship match was Dorothy Pearson, this time by a 5-and-4 margin.

Simone de la Chaume Biography

Born into a prominent family in France, Simone began playing golf at age 7. When she was 10, she received instruction from Arnaud Massy, the 1907 British Open winner.

De la Chaume went to England for her education, and there, in 1924, she earned her first acclaim by winning the Girls Amateur Championship at age 15.

In 1925, de la Chaume reached the finals of the French Ladies Open, but lost to the great American Glenna Collett, in the championship match. The score was 2-and-1 for Collett. Writing in her book Ladies in the Rough, published in 1929, Collett said this about de la Chaume:

"Slight of build, she affects a rugged, full swing, which gives her remarkable distance off the tees. Her short game is equal to the best, and added to that she has a charming personality, which endears her to any gallery."
A year later, de la Chaume made it back to the French Open championship match. This time she won — the first of her eventual six wins in that tournament — beating four-time British Ladies Amateur winner Cecil Leitch. But Leitch got her revenge in the semifinals of the British Ladies Amateur that same year, where she turned the tables on de la Chaume.

In 1927, de la Chaume broke through to win her own British Ladies Amateur title. And she decided to give the U.S. Women's Amateur a try, too — her only appearance in that event. She lost in the third round to three-time champion Alexa Stirling.

Soon, de la Chaume met a French athlete even more famous at home than she was, began a relationship and got married (more on this below). That meant that while she continued playing competitive golf, from the late 1920s on she played mostly at home in France.

And she was the dominant French player of that era, winning six French Ladies Opens and five French Ladies Closed titles. (A "closed" national tournament is one that is open only to golfers from that country.) She also played for Team France 11 times in the Vagliano Trophy, which, at that time, was contested annually between Great Britain and France.

In one of her French Open wins, she also set a record for largest margin of victory: de la Chaume won the 36-hole championship match in 1927 by the whopping score of 15-and-14. Still today, you'll have to search hard to find such lopsided championship matches as that one.

In 1938, an exhibition match was arranged in which Henry Cotton played against the best ball of de la Chaume, Joyce Wethered and Enid Wilson. Cotton won. But keep in mind it was three amateurs playing one of the world's best pros, and women's golf was still in an embryonic state at the time — there were just a tiny fraction as many women golfers around the world as there were men golfers. Also, the three female champions were all past the peaks of their competitive careers.

Simone de la Chaume's Legacy

In 1927, de la Chaume booked return to France on an ocean liner after playing the U.S. Women's Amateur. On the same ocean liner home was French tennis star Rene Lacoste, who had been in America helping France to its first-ever Davis Cup championship. It was the beginning of a romance that captured French and often world society pages for years to come.

On June 30, 1930, de la Chaume and Lacoste were married in Paris. They remained married for 66 years, until Lacoste's death in 1996.

What is Simone de la Chaume's legacy? Aside from her name in the record books, the Lacostes built one of the most famous brands in the world in sports apparel, the Lacoste brand with its iconic crocodile logo. They also founded the Golf de Chantaco club, which became a prominent golf and tennis club in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, near Biarritz, France.

And they had four children together. Their daughter is Catherine Lacoste, who followed in her mother's footsteps as a golfer. Catherine Lacoste in 1967 won the U.S. Women's Open playing as an amateur, the only amateur winner of that tournament to date. And in 1969, she won the British Ladies Amateur, making da la Chaume and Lacoste the first mother-and-daughter duo to win that title. Lacoste also won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1969.

De la Chaume was 92 years old when she died in 2001. Today, the Senior Ladies International Open is played annually in France. The competitors are playing for a trophy that bears de la Chaume's name and serves as the alternate name of the tournament: the Simone Thion de la Chaume Trophy.

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