DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., December 22, 2011 - LPGA Founder Bettye Danoff passed away today in Texas at the age of 88.
"Bettye really did make a difference, in the world of golf - and all of us are living proof," said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. "Because of her courage, and the vision/belief of many others that followed our Founders, we all get to participate in a fantastic business and game."
Her fellow playing pros affectionately called her "Mighty Mite," and for good reason. Bettye Mims Danoff, at 5-foot-2 and barely tipping the scales at 100 pounds, made her mark in women's golf not only in her home state of Texas, but also as one of the LPGA's 13 Founders.
The diminutive native of Dallas got her start in the game at age 6 when her parents opened a driving range and a nine-hole golf course. That course, Sunset Golf Center in Grand Prairie, Texas, which is still in the Mims' family, was where the youngster took her first swings and where she honed what others called a "beautiful" and "compact swing" that helped the petite player win.
From 1945-48, she won four consecutive Dallas Women's Golf Association Championships, the women's division of the Texas PGA Championship in 1945 and 1946, the Texas Women's Amateur in 1947 and 1948, and in 1947, defeated Babe Zaharias 1-up in the Texas Women's Open that ended Babe's 17-tournament winning streak.
The Texan played exhibitions as an amateur with rising PGA star Byron Nelson in the late 1940s, and added honors as the medalist at the 1948 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, before turning professional in April 1949. She also attended North Texas State University for one year before hitting the road to compete.
Danoff launched her young professional career and traveled with her three daughters, Kaye, Janie and Debbie, at different times while competing on the LPGA Tour. Those days were more challenging because there was no LPGA childcare.
Bettye Danoff talks about being an LPGA Founder
One of the 13 LPGA Founders, Bettye Danoff, sat down with her family for an interview with the Dallas Fox News affiliate Channel 4. Danoff talked about starting the Tour back in 1950 and her family shared what it was like growing up playing golf and traveling with the Tour.
"I remember traveling for five consecutive tournaments with her while she played," said youngest daughter, Debbie Bell. "She was often frustrated because she had to find friends and people to help watch us while she competed."
Danoff's husband, Dr. Clyde Walter Danoff, died suddenly at an early age in 1961. The loss of her husband limited the golfer to play only LPGA tournaments in Texas and nearby Oklahoma, while she reared her family. She played a limited LPGA schedule until the mid-1970s while teaching golf at home in Dallas.
At the 1962 Austin Civitan tournament in Austin, Texas, Danoff gave her fellow Texans something to cheer about when she scored her first hole-in-one. She was awarded a case of beer for her ace.
Known as a "gracious" Texan with a warm smile, Danoff became the first grandmother on the LPGA Tour - a distinction she later shared with fellow LPGA Founder Alice Bauer.