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Golf Digest podcast shines deserved light on Babe Zaharias

On the 67th anniversary of Babe Zaharias’ incomparable victory in the 1954 United States Women’s Open, Golf Digest has gone out of its way to draw attention to an achievement that like too many Zaharias feats has mostly been forgotten.

With the 2021 Women’s Open teeing off Thursday at Olympic Club in San Francisco, Golf Digest’s Alex Meyers devoted his 30-minute Local Knowledge podcast to Zaharias. For historical perspective, he added the insight of ESPN’s Don Van Natta. Don’s 2011 masterpiece of a book about Babe — Wonder Girl — literally screams to be made into a movie.

Since the author of this column tends to get carried away when discussing Zaharias, we’re going to use Meyers’ words to set the stage for the podcast. If the exact same words were mine, there would be accusations of getting carried away with a hometown favorite.

Under the headline, “Our latest podcast discusses the legend of Babe Didrikson Zaharias — and the most incredible performance in golf history,” Meyers writes:

“Tiger Woods has authored arguably both the most dominant win in golf history at the 2000 U.S. Open and the sport’s mostly unlikely comeback victory at the 2019 Masters. Emphasis on arguably, because what if you could somehow combine those two performances?

“Then you’d pretty much have what Babe Didrikson Zaharias accomplished at the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open. Zaharias, some 15 months removed from colon cancer surgery, blew the field away at Salem Country Club to win by 12 shots.

“And she did it while having a colostomy bag strapped to her side.”

Most Southeast Texans, of course, know all the above. But it is so important to Zaharias’ undervalued legacy as the “World’s Greatest Female Athlete” for reminders like what Meyers has done from an educational standpoint.

You might remember for example, when Annika Sorenstam, along with Gary Player and Zaharias were presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January, Sorenstam professed to know little about Babe.

If Sorenstam was in the dark a few years after a big deal was made of her trying to become the first female since Zaharias to make the cut in a PGA event, why would others of her generation know much? Or the current generation?

That’s why it is so important when somebody with Meyers’ credibility writes that Babe’s miracle topped Tiger’s and that folks need to sit up and take notice.

It is also why Hollywood, Amazon, Netflix or somebody in the movie business needs to take Zaharias’ mind-boggling life and do a movie comparable to Wonder Girl. Van Natta has been continually perplexed and frustrated that a movie or limited TV series has not been done.

He continues to believe, however, that it will happen at some point.

“If Babe were alive today, she would be a major world superstar,” Van Natta says on the podcast. “She would have the biggest sneaker contract. Her story needs to be brought to a much wider audience. Girls and young women need to know the things she accomplished.”

Space does not permit a review of Babe’s massive and memorable sports resume, but ESPN’s 1999 Sports Century Documentary detailing the top 100 North American athletes of the 20th century needs a mention. Zaharias was No. 10 behind guys named Jordan, Ruth, Ali, Jim Brown, Wayne Gretzky, Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Willie Mays and Nicklaus.

In all candor, she should have been several spots higher. Anyway, here’s what ESPN’s Dan Patrick said when introducing her story.

“She made DiMaggio swing and miss and outplayed Sarazen. She excelled in basketball and bowling, billiards, tennis, softball, diving, archery, golf and five Olympic events. Babe Didrikson gave birth to the modern woman athlete.”

Zaharias, in a nutshell, was part Ali as a self-promoter, part Tiger as a miracle maker, ahead of her time as a courageous spokesperson against cancer, a fierce, versatile competitor, a winner like none other and an American icon.

You owe it to yourself and any kids you know to check out the podcast at GolfDigest.com.

CHIP SHOTS: Andrew Landry played well enough to make the cut in the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial last week, shooting rounds of 71-70-71-71. His 3-over 283 finished T62 and earned $16,425. The PNG ex is not playing in Jack Nicklaus’ event this week in Columbus, Ohio.

Gene Jones of Port Arthur had the shot of the week at Babe Zaharias, sinking a pitching wedge from 60 yards for an eagle 2 on the 5th hole. Jones was playing in the Senior 50 Plus 2 ball.

In that Senior 50 Plus game, the team of Randy Hancock, Dwayne Benoit, Joe Gongora and Larry Foster won the front with minus 4. On the back, minus 2 won for the foursome of Rick Pritchett, Don MacNeil, Larry Johnson and Dan Harrington.

The Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias saw a tie on the front. Posting minus 1 was the team of James Shipley, Cap Hollier, Jeff Rinehart and Glenn Knight and the foursome of Jones, Gongora, MacNeil and Stewart Ellis. Shipley’s team prevailed on the back with minus 1.

In the Friday 2 ball, the team of Bob West, MacNeil, Foster and Richard Menchaca won the front with minus 5. Minus 2 won the back for the foursome of Jones, Pritchett, Johnson and Ellis.

Thursday’s 2 ball saw a tie on the front at minus 2 between the team of Calvin Landry, Jeremey Hemler, Charles Leard and Roger Baumer and the team of Kenny Robbins, Danny Robbins, Lee Bertrand and Johnson. Minus 4 captured the back for Mike Brown, Randy Monk, Rusty Hicks and Caleb Klein.

The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was played as a par 4 game, with all points counting. Winning with 28 points was the team of Robbins, Foster, Klein and Don Duplan. Second with 27 points was the foursome of Cricket Owen, Hollier, Knight and a ghost player.

Closest to the pin winners were Scot Welch (No. 2), Hollier (No. 7) and Brent Royer (No. 15).

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net.