Golfer Jessie Valentine: Scottish Amateur Great

Jessie Anderson Valentine was a Scottish golfer who won numerous tournaments throughout Great Britain but also in Continental Europe. Most of her titles were in the 1930s and 1950s, on either side of World War II. Valentine is considered by many golf historians the greatest Scottish woman golfer of the pre-professional era in Britain.

Full name: Janet (Anderson) "Jessie" Valentine

Date of birth: March 18, 1915

Place of birth: Perth, Scotland

Date and place of death: April 6, 2006 in Perth, Scotland

Nickname: "Jessie" was itself a nickname. She was known as "Wee Jessie," a nickname she disliked but which she was commonly called. In print, she was sometimes referred to as "the Fairway Maid of Perth" or "Perth's Fairway Maid," which were plays on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Fair Maid of Perth.

Also known as: Before marriage, Jessie Anderson; after marriage, Jessie Anderson Valentine and Mrs. George Valentine.

Valentine's Biggest Wins

  • 1933 British Girls Amateur
  • 1935 New Zealand Match Play Championship
  • 1936 French Open Amateur
  • 1937 British Ladies Amateur
  • 1938 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1939 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1951 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1953 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1955 British Ladies Amateur
  • 1953 Commonwealth Tournament
  • 1955 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1956 Scottish Ladies' Amateur
  • 1957 Spalding Women's National Tournament
  • 1958 British Ladies Amateur
  • 1959 Kayser-Bondor National Women's
  • 1961 Kayser-Bondor National Women's
  • 1963 Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes (partnered by John Behrend)
  • 1964 Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes (partnered by John Behrend)
  • 1965 Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes (partnered by John Behrend)
Valentine also won the East of Scotland Championship four times.

In the British Ladies Amateur

In the pre-professional era of women's golf in Great Britain and Europe, by far the biggest title up for grabs was the British Ladies Amateur Championship (now named The Women's Amateur). Jessie Valentine won that trophy three times, and two other times lost in the championship match.

In tournament history, only Cecil Leitch and Joyce Wethered won the trophy more often than Valentine.

She first reached the semifinals in 1935, falling to the eventual winner, Wanda Morgan. Her first victory was in 1937. Playing prior to marriage, Jessie Anderson defeated Doris Park (daughter of British Open winner Willie Park Jr.) in the championship match, 6 and 4.

She reached the semifinals of the British Ladies in 1947. In 1950, Valentine lost in the championship match to Lally Segard, 3 and 2.

Her second victory was in 1955 when she beat Barbara Romack (winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur the previous year and a future LPGA Tour winner), 7 and 6, in the title tilt.

Valentine made it to the finals again in 1957, but Philomena Garvey claimed the trophy with a 4-and-3 win. Valentine's last win in the British Ladies Amateur — the last time she made it as far as the semifinals — was in 1958. She beat Elizabeth Price in the championship match, 1-up. Valentine had previously beaten Price twice in the semifinals, in 1950 and 1957.

Valentine was 42 years, 3 months old when she won in 1958. That made her, at that time, the oldest British Ladies Amateur champion.

Her Curtis Cup Record

Valentine was a seven-time member of Team Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup, the USA-vs.-GB&I team tournament played by leading women amateurs every other year. She played in 1936, 1938, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1958.

As Jessie Anderson, she made her debut in the 1936 Curtis Cup. Team USA had already ensured it would retain the Cup when Anderson's match against Leona Cheney became the last one on the course. Playing to avoid defeat, for herself and her side, Anderson made a long putt (the most-often mentioned length is 60 feet) on the last green to earn a 1-up victory for herself, and a 4½-4½ tie for her team. She had already contributed to the outcome in foursomes, partnering Helen Holm to a 3-and-2 win over Opal Hill/Charlotte Glutting.

In the 1938 Curtis Cup, Anderson won her foursomes match (partnered by Elsie Corlett, 1-up over Glenna Collett Vare/Patty Berg) but lost a close match to future-legend Patty Berg in singles, 1-down. In the 1950 Curtis Cup, Valentine lost in singles to Polly Riley (who earlier in the year had won, as an amateur, the first-ever LPGA tournament), 7 and 6.

Her other singles results:

  • In the 1954 Curtis Cup, Valentine lost to Grace DeMoss Smith, 4 and 3.
  • Leading off a singles session that resulted in a comeback win for GB&I, in the 1956 Curtis Cup Valentine beat Patricia Lesser, 6 and 4.
  • Valentine lost to one future legend, Berg, in singles in 1938; she lost to another, JoAnne Gunderson (Carner) 20 years later, in the 1958 Curtis Cup, 2-down.
At the time of her final appearance as a player in 1958, Valentine was the record-holder for most Curtis Cups played with seven. To this day, only one GB&I golfer (Mary McKenna) has played in more Cups. Her overall record was three match wins, eight losses and two halves.

More About Jessie Valentine

Born Janet Anderson, Jessie Valentine's father, Joe Anderson, was a clubmaker and club professional. He also represented Scotland internationally in golf, curling, cricket and bowling. Joe opened a sports equipment shop in Perth in 1899 and took part in running it until 1961. He also made and sold golf clubs under the OK brand.

Young Jessie took up golf under her father's tutelage at age 5, learning over the Craigie Hill course in Perth. And she learned well: Jessie won the British Girls Amateur at age 17 in 1933, and made the semifinals of the Scottish Ladies Amateur that same year.

Her first brush with winning an adult championship was in the 1934 Scottish Ladies, where she reached the final before losing, 1-down, to Nan Baird.

Valentine was chosen for a British squad that went on a tour of New Zealand in 1935, and while there she entered and won the New Zealand national championship. Her victory in the 1936 French Open Amateur was particularly noteworthy so early in her career: Valentine beat English standout Pam Barton in the championship match, 1-up on the 37th hole.

In 1938, she claimed the first of her six wins in the Scottish Ladies Amateur, beating Helen Holm, 2-up, in the championship match. Valentine won that title again in 1939, a third time in 1951 and a fourth time in 1953. In 1954, Valentine lost in the championship match to Marjorie Peel.

When she won her fifth Scottish Ladies title in 1955, it made her the first Scottish golfer to win both the Scottish Ladies and British Ladies Amateur titles in the same year.

Her sixth win, a record at the time, followed in 1956. Just as in her first Scottish Ladies win in 1938, in her last in 1956 Valentine beat Helen Holm in the championship match.

The first of her British Ladies Amateur wins, and two of her Scottish Ladies victories, as well as her wins in the national amateurs of New Zealand and France, were earned before World War II. She lost about six years of competition, and probably at least several more national titles, due to that conflagration.

In the 1975 Encyclopedia of Golf (Steele/Ryde), the editors described Valentine's game:

"The control and variety of her strokes with the irons is where she always excelled, and in this department of the game, particularly on seaside courses with unequal lies and stances, she has a mastery few women have equalled."
In addition to her Curtis Cup appearances representing Team Great Britain & Ireland, Valentine also played for GB&I in the Vagliano Trophy (vs. Continental Europe) in 1947, 1949, 1951 and 1955. GB&I won all four of those matches.

In 1959, she was awarded an MBE for service to golf, the first woman golfer so honored. Late in that same year Valentine gave up her amateur status when she took over her father's sports equipment business. She also started designing golf clubs for women. At the time, she was one of only a handful of women golf pros in all of the U.K.

Valentine wrote a golf instructional book titled Better Golf, Definitely! (affiliate link), published in 1967. In the 2000s, she was the subject of a biography written by Eve Soulsby and titled, Wee Jessie: Jessie Valentine, Whose Golf Swing Lasted a Lifetime.

Valentine is a member of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 2003) and the Scottish Women in Sport Hall of Fame (2020).

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