Golfer Carolyn Cudone: USGA Record-Setter

Carolyn Cudone was a lifelong amateur golfer who won many regional tournaments in the 1950s and 1960s. But it was as a senior golfer she really shone, winning one USGA championship a record five consecutive times — the only golfer in USGA history to do that.

Full name: Carolyn Cassidy Cudone

Date of birth: September 7, 1918

Place of birth: Oxford, Alabama

Date and place of death: March 1, 2009 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Also known as: Often referred to in print, during early parts of her career, as Mrs. Philip J. Cudone.

Cudone's Senior Amateur Wins and USGA Records

Cudone won a record five titles in the United States Senior Women's Amateur Championship, a USGA national championship, and she won them in successive years: 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972. At the time of Cudone's victories, the tournament used a 54-hole, stroke play format.

Three of Cudone's wins were by wide margins: by 10 strokes in 1968, by eight strokes in 1970 and by six strokes in 1972. In 1969, Cudone was taken to a playoff by Mrs. Lowell D. Brown, and won that playoff 76 to 84. In 1971, Cudone won by a single stroke over Ann Gregory.

She played the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur a total of 10 times, and in addition to her five wins was runner-up twice: in 1974 by two strokes to Justine Cushing; and in 1975 by six strokes to Alberta Brower. In her other three appearances, she finished third once and fourth twice. Ten tournaments, five wins, never lower than fourth place.

Cudone holds the tournament record for most wins and most consecutive wins, and her 10-shot victory in 1968 is the tournament record for margin of victory in its stroke-play era (it is a match play event today).

Cudone also holds one overall USGA record: Her five wins in a row is the record for consecutive victories in any USGA championship. No male golfer has ever won a USGA championship more than three years running.

More About Carolyn Cudone

When Cudone died at the age of 90 in 2009, the USGA remembered her as "a merry, gracious player," and called her "a gracious winner and a cheerful loser who loved to laugh."

She grew up on Staten Island in New York, and in the first part of her golf career (pre-senior golf), Cudone was a dominant player in her area of the country. She won the New Jersey Women's Amateur Championship six times (1955, 1956, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1965), the New Jersey Stroke Play Championship 11 times, and the Women's Metropolitan Amateur Championship five times (1955, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965).

She had other big wins, too, in other parts of the country, the 1958 North & South Women's Amateur and the 1960 Women's Eastern Amateur among them. Along the way, Cudone was a member of Team USA in the 1956 Curtis Cup. Later, she served as the American captain in the 1970 Curtis Cup.

When she was 42 years old, Cudone finished ninth in the 1961 U.S. Women's Open.

But Cudone, during this period, in the words of the USGA, "never quite cracked the elite group of women amateurs of her era: JoAnne Gunderson, Barbara McIntire, Anne Quast and Barbara Romack." Polly Riley, the first winner in the history of the LPGA Tour, was a particular nemesis, ousting Cudone from the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship (which Cudone never won) in 1953, 1955 and 1958.

But after turning 50, Cudone didn't just crack the elite, she was the elite. In 1970, when she won her third consecutive U.S. Senior Women's Amateur title, she became the first golfer (male or female) since Virginia Van Wie in the 1932-34 U.S. Women's Amateur to win the same USGA championship three consecutive times. Cudone was named Amateur Golfer of the Year by Golf Magazine for 1970.

The following year, she became the first USGA golfer to win the same championship four consecutive years. Cudone beat Ann Gregory by a stroke to achieve that, and back in 1956 those two had met in a historic match at the U.S. Women's Amateur. Gregory was the first African-American to play in that tournament, and Cudone won a hard-fought first-round victory against her. Cudone often remembered the grace Gregory showed in the face of open hostility that year.

Finally, in 1972, Cudone extended her own record by winning the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur a fifth consecutive year.

Cudone moved to the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in the 1970s, only to discover something that surprised her: there was no junior golf training program in the area. So Cudone started one, launching the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Program in 1981. For 21 years, she ran it. Cudone only retired at the age of 83.

Today, Cudone is remembered as an inductee into the New Jersey State Golf Association Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame, and the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame.

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