Estelle Lawson Page: Amateur Golfer, Champion

Golfer Estelle Lawson Page putting circa 1935
Estelle Lawson Page was a winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur in the 1930s, beating a future LPGA superstar in the championship match. But you might call her the queen of Carolinas golf of the era: From the 1930s into the 1950s, she won at least 20 tournaments, all of them, except that U.S. Amateur, in the Carolinas.

Date of birth: March 22, 1907

Place of birth: East Orange, New Jersey

Date and place of death: May 7, 1983, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Also known as: Before marriage, Estelle Lawson. After marriage, Estelle Page. Newspaper and magazine references to her during her lifetime, after she married, sometimes called her Mrs. Julius A. Page Jr. Today, she is most commonly referred to in golf records at Estelle Lawson Page.

Her Biggest Wins

  • 1937 U.S. Women's Amateur
  • North and South Women's Amateur: 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1945
  • Women's Carolinas Amateur: 1932, 1933, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1946, 1947, 1949
  • North Carolina Women's Amateur Match Play: 1950, 1951, 1952

Estelle Lawson Page in the U.S. Women's Amateur

Lawson Page won the 1937 U.S. Women's Amateur and lost in the championship match in 1938, both times facing Patty Berg in the final.

In 1937, Lawson Page was the class of the stroke-play qualifying round, earning medalist honors with a 79. She was playing out of Sedgefield Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her closest match before the semis was a 2-and-1 victory in the quarterfinals. In the semifials, she dispatched Kathryn Hemphill by a 1-up score, but needed one extra hole to do so.

That brought Lawson Page up against Berg in the championship match. Berg, though only 19, was in a final for the second time, having lost at age 17 to Glenna Collett Vare in 1935. Berg went on to become one of the biggest names in women's golf history, winning 15 major championship titles. But Estelle Lawson never gave Berg a chance here, jumping out early and winning by a 7-and-6 score.

A year later, Lawson Page began her title defense by sharing medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying with an 80. In the fourth round she beat another future LPGA major winner, Betty Jameson, 4 and 2. In the semifinals, Lawson Page won by an 8-and-7 margin over Peggy Graham. That set a record for the largest margin of victory in an 18-hole semifinal that stood until 1977, and remains tied for second place today.

In the championship match, she found Berg waiting again. This time, however, it was Berg with the comfortable win, 6 and 5.

Lawson Page had other good showings in the U.S. Women's Amateur. In 1936 she was medalist with a 78 and reached the quarterfinals. She lost in the quarterfinals to Maureen Orcutt in 1939.

Three times after her back-to-back appearances in the championship match Lawson Page reached the semifinals. Eventual champ Betty Hicks beat her there in 1941; Dorothy Kirby got her in 1947; and Claire Doran beat her in the semis in 1951.

More About Estelle Lawson Page

Estelle Lawson was born in New Jersey, where her mother was from, but she was and is always associated with North Carolina. Her father was a Carolinian who had starred at the University of North Carolina in baseball and football, and spent two years playing Major League Baseball. In 1902, Dr. Bob Lawson moved the family to Chapel Hill when he accepted a position as professor of anatomy in the University of North Carolina's medical school. He also became coach of the school's baseball team and, later, the school's first athletic director.

Estelle played basketball and tennis at Chapel Hill High School, then graduated from UNC in 1928. Even though she had grown up in a growing golf mecca, nearby the famous Pinehurst Resort, it was only after leaving college that she started playing golf, around 1930. She entered her first tournament in 1931, and in 1932 Lawson won the first of her nine titles in the Women's Carolinas Amateur Championship. (Her last win in that event wasn't until 1949.)

In his 1950 book Par Golf in 8 Steps (affiliate links used in this article), author Joe Novak wrote of how Lawson's father became intrigued by golf watching so much of it played at Pinehurst: "As Dr. Lawson and his daughter watched the professional and amateur stars they made notes of salient details of form and style. The doctor was very methodical in his research and analysis, and as each note concerning some feature of a player's stance, grip, and action was written down, inquiry was made as to the reason for the detail. Estelle learned more golf than she had taught to her."

In 1937, the year of her U.S. Women's Amateur victory, Lawson Page (she married in 1936) also won the second of her seven titles in the prestigious North and South Women's Amateur, played at Pinehurst. That year, Lawson Page finished runner-up to swimmer Katherine Rawls in Association Press Female Athlete of the Year voting, and she was named Outstanding Woman Golfer of the Year by Golf Magazine.

Famous sportswriter O.B. Keeler, in his 1938 book Golf in North Carolina, noted that Lawson Page was the women's course record-holder at that time at Carolina Country Club with a 73.

In newspaper articles in the 1940s and 1950s, Lawson Page was often referred to as a housewife. And the society life did keep her busy. But she kept winning tournaments, including the last of her North and South Women's Amateur titles in 1944 and 1945, and three consecutive of the newly created North Carolina Women's Amateur Match Play in 1950-52.

That was event was "newly created" because Lawson Page helped create it. In 1950, she was co-founder of the North Carolina Women's Golf Association and served as its first president. She had previously served as president of the Women's Southern Golf Association and as a member on the USGA Women's Committee.

Lawson Page might have won more titles — she was certainly deprived of some opportunities — if not for the interruptions to daily life caused by World War II. As an example, she played in only two Curtis Cups for Team USA — the last one before the war, and the first one after the war.

In the 1938 Curtis Cup, Lawson Page lost the first match she played, a foursomes with partner Maureen Orcutt, but she won the three other times she played Curtis Cup matches. In singles in 1938, she defeated Helen Holm, 6 and 5. In the 1948 Curtis Cup, she won her foursomes match partnered by Dorothy Kielty. Then, in singles, Lawson Page beat Holm again, this time by a 3-and-2 margin.

She did play in a handful of pre-LPGA Tour women's professional majors, playing as an amateur. Her best finishes were fourth in the 1948 Titleholders Championship and fifth in the 1947 U.S. Women's Open.

Lawson Page gave up playing competitive tournament golf in 1955, when she was 48 years old, after undergoing a thyroid operation.

During her career, she was was also known for terrific luck: Lawson Page recorded 17 holes-in-one, all witnessed, one of the highest-known totals among women golfers of her era (or among significant tournament players of any era of women's golf).

The esteem in which Estelle Lawson Page was held in the Carolinas sports scene is made clear in the fact that when the North Carolina Hall of Fame was created in 1963, she was included in its first class of inductees. Lawson Page is also a member of the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Estelle Lawson Page circa 1935 from the Colorado Historical Commission Photo Commission via Flickr Commons

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