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Hanson was colorful, talented LPGA Tour pioneer

April 25 2014, Neal Reid

Beverly Hanson was one of a kind.

The LPGA Tour lost one of its most colorful and accomplished pioneers recently when Hanson passed away on April 12 in Twin Falls, Idaho, at the age of 89 from complications of Alzheimer’s and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The 17-time tournament winner and three-time major champion was one of the Tour’s best players during its first decade.

Born Dec. 5, 1924, in Fargo, N.D., Hanson earned a journalism degree from North Dakota in the early 1940s and went to work for The Fargo Forum newspaper. But once she discovered she could make much more money playing golf, she dedicated herself to the game.

Hanson put together a stellar amateur career, advancing to the semifinals of the 1948 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and winning the Texas Open and California and Southern California women’s championships the following year. She won the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, where she accepted the winner’s trophy from none other than Bobby Jones.

That was just the beginning of a huge year for Hanson. She then helped the U.S. Team win the 1950 Curtis Cup and later that year won the LPGA’s Texas Women’s Open as an amateur by defeating Patty Berg 1-Up.

Hanson turned professional in 1951 and won her first pro event at the Eastern Open ahead of Babe Zaharias. She would subsequently finish second at the Titleholders Championship that year and also lost to Zaharias in the finals of the Texas Women’s Open.

Those were two of 14 runner-up finishes Hanson would amass in the next decade. Her first major title came in 1955, when she defeated Louise Suggs 4&3 in the match play finals of the LPGA Championship, and Hanson beat Suggs by four strokes the following year to win another major, the Women’s Western Open.

Hanson’s greatest season was 1958, when she won her third major at the Titleholders Championship by five strokes over Betty Dodd and also won the Lawton Open. Hanson added five second-place finishes that year en route to the LPGA money title with $12,639 and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.

Only the U.S. Women’s Open kept Hanson from a career grand slam; her best finish was fourth in 1952. She played in 16 U.S. Women’s Opens during her career, teeing it up in the prestigious tournament for the final time in 1964.

Hanson’s final LPGA victory came in 1960 at the St. Petersburg Open – where she finished six strokes clear of Mickey Wright – and she retired the following year. She married Andrew Sfingi, and the couple raised two sons. Hanson spent the next 35 years working as the women’s golf instructor at Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif.

Blessed with a top-notch golf game and colorful personality, Hanson was immensely popular on Tour and helped the association find its footing in the early days. The always-entertaining Hanson was considered a fiery competitor by her peers and was a force to be reckoned with on Tour.

Friends and family paid their respects to Hanson at a memorial service at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif., on Friday.

Her legacy as an LPGA pioneer will live on forever.

Topics: Hanson, Beverly

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