Bio of English Golf Champ Gladys Ravenscroft

Portrait of golfer Gladys Ravenscroft circa 1913
Gladys Ravenscroft was an English golfer who won both the British Women's Amateur Championship and U.S. Women's Amateur in the early 1900s, at a time when those were, by far, the two biggest tournaments available to women golfers. Ravenscroft was one of the first golfers to hold both of those titles.

Date of birth: May 3, 1888

Place of birth: Rock Ferry, Cheshire, England

Date and place of death: February 6, 1960, in Willaston, Cheshire, England

Also known as: After marriage, she was frequently called "Mrs. Temple Dobell" or Gladys Dobell in newspaper and magazine articles, and in some golf record/reference books.

Her Major Amateur Championship Wins

The British Ladies Amateur (today named The Women's Amateur Championship) was first played in 1893, and the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1895. Gladys Ravenscroft won the British title in 1912 and the American title in 1913. It would be decades before professional tournaments for women golfers came along, so those two national amateur championships were the biggest events that women could play.

Ravenscroft was the first English golfer and second British golfer to win the U.S. Women's Amateur, after Scotland's Dorothy Campbell. And she was just the second golfer to win both those titles, after Campbell.

At the 1912 British Ladies Amateur, Ravenscroft defeated Cecil Leitch in the semifinals, 3 and 2. (As we'll see below, Leitch went on to become a frequent nemesis to Ravenscroft.) In the championship match, she dispatched Stella Temple by a 3-and-2 score.

Ravenscroft started the 1913 U.S. Women's Amateur by earning medalist honors in the qualifying round with a score of 88. (The qualifying record at the time was 85.)

In the first round of match play, Ravenscroft beat 1900 U.S. Women's Amateur champ Frances Griscom. In the semifinals she won, 8 and 7, over Muriel Dodd, who was the 1913 winner of the British Ladies Amateur and Canadian Women's Amateur.

That set up a championship match against Marion Hollins, who went on to win the USWA in 1921. Ravenscroft took a 1-up lead on the 10th hole of the 18-hole title match, and went 2-up on the 14th. Hollins won the 15th to cut the lead in half, then they halved the next two holes. On the 18th and final hole, Hollins drove into a ditch and after several attempts to get to the green conceded the hole and match. Ravenscroft had the 2-up victory and the trophy.

More About Gladys Ravenscroft

Gladys Ravenscroft grew up and lived her whole life in the county of Cheshire on the Wirral Peninsula in England. She first played golf at Formby Club, but advanced quickly in the game after joining Bromborough Golf Club. There she received instruction from Fred Robson, many years later the runner-up in the 1927 British Open.

In 1911 Ravenscroft was elected "Lady Captain" at Bromborough, and after her 1912 British Ladies Amateur victory, she was the first golfer named a Life Member by the club. (She served as Lady Captain again in 1920-21, 1929 and 1949.)

Ravenscroft was runner-up in the 1912 French Women's Amateur to Cecil Leitch, one of many battles that Leitch and Ravenscroft were to have. Ravenscroft also lost to Leitch in the championship match of the 1914 British Ladies Amateur. (Leitch eventually won the French title five times and the British Am four times.)

The Lady's Pictorial Tournament was a big match-play tournament held for four years (1911-14) at Stoke Poges. Ravenscroft reached the semifinals three out of four years, and in 1914 made to it the championship match but lost to Muriel Dodd.

She fell to Leitch again in the championship match of the 1919 English Ladies Amateur.

Ravenscroft had great success in the Cheshire Ladies Championship, winning it seven times: 1912, 1913, 1914, 1920, 1921, 1926 and 1928. She was runner-up in the tournament another four times (1927, 1936, 1948 and 1949), last at the age of 61.

She represented England in several international team tournaments. Ravenscroft was on Team England in the Ranelagh International Cup in 1912-14, 1920-21 and 1923-24, and was the individual low scorer in 1923. She also played for England in the Women's Home Internationals those same years plus in 1925 and 1930.

In her later years Ravenscroft played often at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which, when she first began playing there, did not allow women members and did not have forward tees. Ravenscroft successfully campaigned to change both those situations. In 1958, she became the first Lady Captain of what is now known as the Royal Liverpool Ladies Golf Club.

Ravenscroft was 71 years old when she died in 1960.

In his 1914 book Golf for Women (affiliate link), future British Open winner George Duncan described Ravenscroft's swing: "Miss Gladys Ravenscroft plays off the right leg with a fairly upright swing and is a very powerful hitter. The ball has a tendency to run to the left after its pitch, which is caused by the right hand being a little underneath the club. She has the straight left arm at the top of the swing, which means distance, as the club is travelling in a wider plane and consequently has more leverage."

Cecil Leitch, in her 1922 book Golf (affiliate link), wrote that Ravenscroft "has a very unorthodox palm grip and an exceptionally full, powerful swing." Leitch went on to call Ravenscroft "a most delightful rival and a remarkably fine player," writing that Ravenscroft's style "is decidedly unorthodox and her grip quite original, as she appears to use the fingers of her left hand and the palm of her right. (She) has an upright swing, but adopts very powerful methods and acquires great length. She appears to favour a mashie and uses this club for distances which most of her sex require a jigger or iron to cover. For putting she uses an unusual stance, as she almost faces the hole and putts from the right side of her body."

Photo credit: Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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