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Hecker Into Hall of Fame

CSGA (December 13, 2020) At its Annual Meeting this week, conducted remotely, the CSGA inducted the late Genevieve Hecker Stout of Darien, two-time National Champion and author of what’s considered the first golf book devoted exclusively to women, into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

Golf For Women, published in 1904, was Hecker’s wise and sometimes feisty introduction to the game, with comprehensive instruction on everything from hitting a mashie to the advisability of wearing a glove—or a corset—during play.

Hecker herself was a great player. She won the United States Amateur, then the only national championship for women, in 1901 and 1902, the first at the age of 17. She was part of an early dominance by Connecticut female golfers. (Georgianna Bishop of Brooklawn Country Club won the event in 1904.) Hecker won her first Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club, her second at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

Born in Darien, she learned the game at Wee Burn Country Club. Later a member at Apawamis Club, she won the Metropolitan Golf Championship in 1900, 1901, 1905 and 1906. At Apawamis, she met fellow member Charles Stout. They married in 1903. His company published Golf For Women in 1904.

For her playing accomplishments Hecker will be inducted into the Hall for “Distinguished Golf Achievement.” But for the seminal Golf For Women, she might also have been inducted for Distinguished Service to the Game, chair of the Hall of Fame Committee Ed Detmer said. Hecker is the only inductee in 2020.

As one who often played golf with men, Hecker was not at all patient with the condescension they showed toward female players. Her book celebrated the fact that women, both in the UK and in America, had won the freedom to play without restriction by “the Lords of Creation.”

When women in America first began to play golf, they were allowed at many of the big clubs to use the links only at certain hours on certain days when it was thought that their presence would not incommode the Lords of Creation. The idea that a woman could learn to play a really good and serious game of golf was laughed to scorn, and if there were many women who evinced a desire to play at the various clubs, numbers of them would doubtless have followed the example of Shinnecock Hills Club and laid out a course exclusively for women…After much hesitation and head-shaking on the part of those men who, never having had sisters, had no idea of the physical capabilities of a girl, and her ability to do anything she really wanted to, permission was granted….

Noticing that there never had been a book which presented the Royal and Ancient game to “the feminine inquiring mind” Hecker took it on. Her book represents not only a comprehensive guide to mastering the game, but a snapshot of a sport coming of age in America. She wisely advises her students to limit expectations as they start.

“The tortures of Tantalus are as nothing compared to the mortal who has once tasted the joys of a full cleanly hit shot,” writes Hecker. She proceeds to advise the novice not only to refrain from playing the course for several weeks after hitting her first practice shots but, above all, to “never think of counting the number of strokes for six months after she begins to play.” Like most of Golf for Women, sage advice still.

Hecker died in 1960 in Brooklyn at the age of 86.