HARTFORD, Conn. – A two-time national champion and pioneer in women’s golf journalism is the newest member of the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.
The late Genevieve Hecker-Stout of Darien, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1901 and 1902 and authored what is considered the first golf book devoted exclusively to women, joined the ranks of the most distinguished golfers in state history during the Connecticut State Golf Association’s annual meeting, conducted remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hecker’s most lasting contribution to the game is her book, Golf for Women, published in 1904 by Baker & Taylor, the company owned by her husband, Charles. It was a 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 corset, during play. Noting “there had never been a book which presented the Royal and Ancient game to the feminine inquiring mind,” Hecker undertook the task herself. She presented the fundamentals of grip, stance, swing and follow-through in admirable detail, with just enough emphasis on the unique female perspective.
“Perhaps the greatest fault among women [golfers] is impatience,” Hecker wrote. “They are so anxious to make their shot that many and many a time they step up to the ball and play it with no more than a casual glance. … Women, I am proud to say, show a relatively greater degree of nerve in golf than do men, and particularly is this so when on the putting green.”
The book came shortly after she twice captured the only national championship for women, the first at the age of 17 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and then at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. She was part of an early dominance by Connecticut golfers, including Georgiana Bishop of Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield who won the national title in 1904 and was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 1959.
Born in Darien, Hecker learned the game at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien and became so successful that she became captain of the club’s team. Her brother, George, and sister, Louise also played well, and they switched to The Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y., after the club’s installation of a new course. She captured the Metropolitan Golf Championship in 1900, 1901, 1905 and 1906, met fellow Apawamis member Charles Stout and the two were married in 1903, a year before his company published Golf For Women.
Hecker’s instructor was the noted Scottish-American pro George Strath, and she was equally at ease playing against men as women. She was so accomplished that it was said “her iron play is concerned she has no superior in this country among women and few men can compete with her in this part of the same. She is thoroughly worthy of the title of champion.”
In a chapter that she wrote for Golf for Women, two-time British Ladies Amateur champion said, “By all odds, the best woman player in the United States whom I have seen is Mrs. Charles T. Stout. Never have I seen a player display more ideal from than does she in every particular. Besides the beautiful style in which she plays, the main beauty of her game is that is so evenly developed, and not one stroke perfected at the expense of others.”
For her playing accomplishments, Hecker will be inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame for “Distinguished Golf Achievement,” but for the seminal Golf for Women, she might also have been named for Distinguished Service, chairman of the Hall committee Ed Detmer said. Hecker is the only inductee in 2020 after she was named to Metropolitan Golf Association Hall of Merit earlier this year.
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 United Kingdom and the United States, 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 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 or scorned, and if there were many women who desired to play at various clubs, many would doubtless have followed the example of Shinnecock Hills Club in Southampton, N.Y., 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.”
Hecker’s book represents not only a comprehensive guide to mastering the game, but a snapshot of a sport coming of age in America. She wisely advised her students to limit expectations when they started.
“The tortures of Tantalus are as nothing compared to the mortal who has once tasted the joys of a full cleanly hit shot,” Hecker wrote.
Hecker then advised the beginner 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, it’s still sage advice from someone who died in 1960 in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the age of 86.