Bio of Golfer Bettye Danoff, an LPGA Founder

Bettye Danoff never won on the LPGA Tour, but she still has a very important place in tour history: She was one of the tour's 13 founding members. She had some amateur wins of note in the 1940s, and played LPGA events into the 1970s. Danoff also once ended a 17-tournament winning streak by Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Full name: Bettye Jane Danoff (maiden name Bettye Jane Mims, also played under the names Bettye Mims White and Bettye Mims Danoff)

Date of birth: May 21, 1923

Place of birth: Dallas, Texas

Date and place of death: December 22, 2011 in McKinney, Texas

Nickname: Mighty Mite

Danoff's Biggest Wins

As an amateur:
  • 1945 Texas PGA (women's division)
  • 1946 Texas PGA (women's division)
  • 1948 Texas Women's Amateur
As a professional:
  • 1953 Hardscrabble Open

More About Bettye Danoff

Her nickname, Mighty Mite, comes from her size, of course: Bettye Danoff was described as 5-foot-2 "and barely 100 pounds." One of her LPGA cofounders, Marilynn Smith, once wrote of Danoff:
"She belted the ball a long way for a little gal with a compact swing."

Danoff had the distinction of being the first grandmother to play on the LPGA Tour. She was only 36 years old when her youngest daughter became a mother herself in 1960. At pre-tournament golf clinics hosted by the LPGA players, Patty Berg would introduce Danoff as "Grandma." Dressed up as a little old lady, Danoff would limp out to the teeing area using a cane, then start striping drives.

Bettye Mims was born into a golfing family in Grand Prairie, Texas. Her father, D.D. Mims, opened the Sunset Golf Center, a driving range and 9-hole course, there in 1929. Bettye got her start in golf at age six, picking up balls off the driving range. And she watched Babe Didrikson Zaharias practice there in the 1930s. (Sunset Golf Center remained in the Mims family until it finally closed in 2019.)

Bettye's first taste of success in a statewide golf tournament was reaching the semifinals of the Texas Women's Public Links Championship at age 17 in 1940. She won the women's club championship at Dallas' Tenison Park Golf Course in 1943, the year her first child was born. (Two more children followed in 1951 and 1956, after she had divorced and remarried.)

In the first years after the war, Danoff broke out as a competitor in amateur championships. She won the Dallas Women's Golf Assocation championship four consecutive years, 1945-48, and the women's division of the Texas PGA in 1945 and 1946.

In the 1947 Texas Women's Open, Danoff scored her biggest individual match win, beating Babe Zaharias, 1-up, in the quarterfinal. It ended the Babe's streak of winning 17 consecutive tournaments. (It is erroneously reported in many other articles, including many Danoff obituaries, that Danoff beat Zaharias in the championship match. She didn't, it was a quarterfinal. And Betty Jameson wound up winning the tournament.)

The next year, Danoff won the Texas Women's Amateur. Her best showing in the U.S. Women's Amateur was an appearance in the semifinals in 1946, where she lost, 8 and 7, to Clara Sherman. At the time, that tied the tournament record for worst loss in a semifinal match. In the 1948 U.S. Women's Amateur, Danoff earned medalist honors with a 77 in the stroke-play qualifying round.

She sometimes played exhibitions with Byron Nelson, and turned pro in 1949. Later that year, the first meeting to create a new Ladies Professional Golf Association and LPGA Tour was held, with five signatories. Later, another eight golfers, including Danoff, signed on as charter members. Those 13 women are today remembered as the LPGA Founders. Bettye Danoff served as the LPGA Tour's first treasurer.

She never won an LPGA title, but Danoff did take the title at the 1953 Hardscrabble Open tournament. That event was an LPGA tournament in some years it was played, but not in 1953.

When Danoff's husband died in 1961, Bettye was only in her late 30s. She had often traveled the LPGA circuit with her children in tow (Danoff and Alice Bauer, another founder, were the first LPGA players to take their children to tournament sites). But after she was widowed, Danoff mostly limited her tournament golf to events played in Texas and Oklahoma.

At one of those, the 1962 LPGA Austin Civitan tournament, Danoff scored her first ace in tournament play. There was a hole-in-one prize at the tournament, too: a case of beer.

Danoff played in seven U.S. Women's Opens over the years, finishing in the Top 30 in all but one. Her best showing was a tie for 15th in 1952.

She continued making occasional LPGA tournament appearances into the mid-1970s, while also working as a golf instructor in Dallas. In 2000, Danoff received the LPGA Commissioner's Award, which "honors a person or organization who has contributed uniquely to the LPGA and its members, who has furthered the cause of women’s golf, and whose character and standards are of the highest order."

Popular posts from this blog