While it is impossible to compare Joyce Wethered's accomplishments to those of the professionals of the latter half of the 20th century, one could make a case for her as the greatest woman player of all time.
Bobby Jones once called her the best golfer -- male or female -- he had ever seen. She won the English Amateur all five times she played in it and won the British Amateur four times in six tries, losing in the finals and semifinals on the other occasions.
Wethered, born in 1901, learned the game at 17 from her brother Roger, who was one of England's top amateurs. Accustomed to playing with strong male players, Wethered developed a swing that powered the ball past the other top women amateurs of the time.
Two years after she began to play the game, Wethered entered the 1920 English Amateur just for fun. She found herself in the final against Cecil Leitch, then Britain's best player. Wethered defeated her, 2 and 1, to win the event for the first of five straight years.
Leitch gained some revenge by beating Wethered in the finals of the 1921 British and French Amateurs, but from then on Wethered ruled. In the British championship, Wethered won the 1922 final over Leitch, 9 and 7, lost in the semifinals in 1923, and won in 1924 and '25.
Wethered then retired from championship golf, much like Jones a few years later, with little left to accomplish and having grown tired of the competition. However, she returned to the British championship one more time -- in 1929 at St. Andrews. The final was a classic between Wethered and America's best, Glenna Collett, with Wethered prevailing, 3 and 1. In 11 English and British Amateurs, Wethered played 71 matches and won 69.
Wethered didn't stop playing golf completely. She played in the 1932 Curtis Cup and continued to enter the Worplesdon Mixed Foursomes, winning it eight times from 1922-36 with seven different partners.For more information about golf, see: