LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy Rawls not only lends her name to the McDonald's Betsy Rawls Girls Championship, but she will also be acting as Co-Tournament Chairman of the event for the 17th year, an honor she shares with former LPGA professional Alice Miller.
The tournament, now a major on the AJGA circuit, began as a vision of Rawls and several others to put on a prestigious junior tournament. The eventual tournament hosts recognized the American Junior Golf Association as the nation's premier organization for young golfers and, thus, aimed to link the AJGA's growing membership base and their own history of conducting successful tournaments.
"From the very beginning," recalled Rawls in 2001, "several of the board members here mentioned that it would be nice to have a junior tournament with McDonald's as the sponsor. We contacted the AJGA and talked to them about putting a tournament on for them. We came to a meeting of the minds very quickly and scheduled the tournament for the following July."
A constant presence at the tournament, Rawls has been extremely active in all aspects of the championship since the event's inaugural playing in 1989. Performing every task from helping to set up tents to serving as the Senior Rules Official, Rawls has dedicated her time, energy and self to making the event a success.
Prior to her work with the junior tournament, Rawls dominated the LPGA Tour. Winner of 55 LPGA events, including eight majors, Rawls won at least one event every year for 16 consecutive years, an admirable feat. Her major victories include four U.S. Women's Open titles, two LPGA Championships and two Western Opens.
Rawls was one of six inaugural inductees into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame when it was created in 1967, after having been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Women's Golf in 1960. Additionally, Rawls was named to Golf Magazine's "100 Heroes" during the 1988 Centennial of Golf in America celebration.
Though Rawls did not take up golf until the age of 17, she went on to be one of the game's most influential individuals. Her deep knowledge of the game led her to become the first woman to serve on the Rules Committee for the men's U.S. Open. Other honors include the 1995 Sprint Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1996 Bob Jones Award and recognition as one of the LPGA's top 50 players and teachers during the Association's 50th Anniversary in 2000.
Throughout her time as first a player and now as an active supporter of women's golf, Rawls has found great enjoyment in all she has experienced. She expressed the following sentiments in an interview in 2001.
"There's no feeling like winning a golf tournament," Rawls said. "It's very satisfying to win a golf tournament, you can't get that feeling anywhere else. But there are other types of satisfaction that can come from this job...The pleasures you get from playing golf and running tournaments like this- to give opportunities to these girls to play and further their careers. It's been a great experience."
In honor of her longstanding commitment to the McDonald's Betsy Rawls Girls Championship, Rawls was honored at the 2003 event banquet with the Digger Smith Award, an award given annually to an individual whose service to junior golf goes above and beyond the call of duty. A very deserving recipient, Rawls' work and support of junior golf has impacted and continues to impact girls across the nation. This tournament is only one testimony to all she has accomplished in her life and the love of the game that follows her in all that she pursues.