“Louise was very fiery. And she loved her Scotch…”
In less than 10 hours, Meg Mallon would be on the stage at Cipriani Wall Street to accept her crystal and take her place among the immortals of golf in the World Golf Hall of Fame. But on the morning of her induction, she took a break from a round of interviews inside the Oculus in Lower Manhattan to reminisce about her friend, the late Louise Suggs.
Mallon shared a story about having Suggs over to her home one Thanksgiving. Asked what she would like to drink, Suggs requested a glass of Scotch.
“I didn’t know how to pour a Scotch or how much to pour, so I guess I poured her half a glass,” Mallon recalls with a laugh. “She goes, ‘What are you trying to do, kill me?’ I said to her, ‘I’m so sorry, Louise!’ but she ended up drinking the whole thing so I don’t think she was too disappointed in my pour!”
Classic Louise. Mallon could spend hours relaying humorous stories about her friend, but there is one item currently on display in Mallon’s exhibit case at the World Golf Hall of Fame that symbolizes the special relationship she enjoyed with Suggs: a green MacGregor shag bag.
“That shag bag could tell a story for sure,” Mallon says.
And what stories it could tell.
Just prior to turning professional in 1948, Suggs found herself in high demand among each of the main three golf equipment manufacturers: Wilson, Spalding, and MacGregor. Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias were already signed with Wilson, so Suggs gravitated towards MacGregor, where she could be the company’s first female spokesperson.
In her memoir “And That’s That!” Suggs recounts the story of finalizing her sponsorship deal with Hugo Goldsmith, the chairman of MacGregor when her father talked him into giving Louise a signing bonus of $5,000 (approximately $50,000 in today’s dollars). With that, Suggs began representing MacGregor at exhibitions and clinics throughout America, using their equipment and appearing in advertising campaigns to become synonymous with the brand.
Winning surely helped increase her profile as well, and Suggs won prolifically throughout her career. Suggs won 61 times on the LPGA Tour, including 11 Major Championships: the U.S. Women’s Open (1949, 1952), the Women’s Western Open (1946, 1947, 1949, 1953), the Titleholders Championship (1946, 1954, 1956, 1959), and the LPGA Championship (1957). Just as important, she was one of the 13 original founders of the LPGA in 1950 and served as its president from 1955-1957.
“I’d hear stories from Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth saying that if it weren’t for Louise, the tour wouldn’t have stayed together,” Mallon recalled. “She took on a lot during a very difficult time. I don’t think that gets talked about enough.”
Mallon admits to not knowing much about the LPGA or Suggs prior to joining the tour, but meeting and learning from many of the original founders, including Suggs, gave her an appreciation for their contributions and sacrifices. Eventually, a friendship would blossom with between Meg and Louise.
When Mallon moved to Florida in the late 1990s, Suggs sponsored her for membership at the exclusive Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach. Among its members were fellow Hall of Famers JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel, and Karrie Webb.
“We all got to know Louise really well through that membership there, playing golf with her,” Mallon recalls. “Though I’m not sure I ever beat her.”
A visit to Suggs’ home, which Mallon described as one of the neatest she had ever visited – “Everything was in place. She was a very particular and neat person” – resulted in her leaving with one of her currently most treasured possessions.
“Louise asked me, ‘Is there anything you’d like to have?’ I told her that the shag bag was the coolest thing you’ve got in this house. She said, ‘Oh, you can have that!’ There were so many things she had: awards, golf clubs, equipment, but that shag bag could tell a story. I’m sure she hit a lot of balls out of that bag and carried it with her everywhere. It was in great shape though, like brand new. Typical of Louise.”
Suggs, who passed away in 2015, would undoubtedly nod her approval and raise a glass of Scotch in honor of her friend Meg’s induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Travis Puterbaugh is the Curator of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. He graduated from Loyola University of New Orleans with a B.A. in Communications, the University of South Florida with an M.A. in History, and has worked in the museum industry for 14 years. Travis considers getting to walk inside the ropes during Day One of the 2016 International Crown as the highlight of his time working for the Hall of Fame. Follow Travis on Twitter at @WGHOFCurator.