Women's History Month: Estelle Lawson Page, Golf Legend
All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women's history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state's past.
In the days when female golfers were evaluated on their hats and hairstyles while being called “Georgia peach,” or “Carolina housewife,” one woman towered above the crowd. The resume of Estelle Lawson Page (1907-1983) earned her a spot in the first North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame induction class in 1963.
In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s take a closer look at her achievements.
This star of the links earned 10 Carolinas Amateurs titles, seven North and South amateurs victories over 10 years, a national championship, and twice represented the U.S. in international competition. Lawson is generally considered the greatest female golfer in Tar Heel history.
During one event in Pinehurst in 1938, the New York Times wrote:
Stealing away from her household duties at Chapel Hill, Mrs. Estelle Lawson Page, women’s national champion, motored here today, fired the best score in the St. Valentine’s tournament, and then hastened home to prepare supper for her husband, Julius.
The champion was described as the “Carolina housewife” and “determined young matron.” One newspaper headline proclaimed “Queen of America’s Golfers Turns to Plain Housewife At Chapel Hill.” She joked about her domestic skills and bemoaned her weight when prompted. She explained:
You can’t reduce and play golf. Most of us look like baby elephants.
Page was born in New Jersey but grew up in Chapel Hill. She graduated from Chapel Hill High School, where she played tennis and basketball. She practiced with the men’s freshmen tennis and basketball teams at the University of North Carolina, since female students then could not compete in sports. She graduated in 1928.
Later her father, a UNC coach and faculty member who was briefly a major league pitcher, taught Page and himself to play golf.
Page won her first Carolina’s Amateur tournament in 1932, and three years became the first woman to win the North and South in Pinehurst. Other titles included the 1946 Southern Amateur, and the Mid-South Amateur by a whopping 23 strokes one year. In 1947, she tied the famous Babe Didrikson Zaharias for North and South medalist honors.
Among great thrills of her life, Page included her singles victories in two United States Curtis Cup triumphs (1938, 1948) over Great Britain. She never turned professional, but competed in early pro events as an amateur. She also held several leadership positions in women’s golf. Page is buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.
Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Circa 2, no. 1 (spring/summer 2009): 16–17, copyright North Carolina Museum of History. Used with permission.