Partner Betty Dodd
850 Doucette Avenue, Beaumont, TX 77701, USA
Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum, 1750 I-10, Beaumont, TX 77703, Stati Uniti
Babe Zaharias Golf Course, 11412 Forest Hills Dr, Tampa, FL 33612, Stati Uniti
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, 4955 Pine St, Beaumont, TX 77703, Stati Uniti
Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (June 26, 1911 – September 27, 1956) was an American athlete who achieved a great deal of success in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics, before turning to professional golf and winning 10 LPGA major championships. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time.
Zaharias had her greatest year in 1950 when she completed the Grand Slam of the three women's majors of the day: the U.S. Open, the Titleholders Championship, and the Women's Western Open, a feat that made her the leader on the money list that year. Also that year, she reached 10 wins faster than any other LPGA golfer, doing so in one year and 20 days, a record that still stands. She was the leading money-winner again in 1951, and in 1952 took another major with a Titleholders victory, but illness prevented her from playing a full schedule in 1952–53. This did not stop her from becoming the fastest player to reach 20 wins (two years and four months).
She was a close friend of fellow golfer Betty Dodd. According to Susan Cayleff's biography Babe, Dodd was quoted as saying, "I had such admiration for this fabulous person [Zaharias]. I loved her. I would have done anything for her." They met in a 1950 amateur golf tournament in Miami and became close almost immediately. Cayleff wrote, "As Didrikson's marriage grew increasingly troubled, she spent more time with Dodd. The women toured together on the golf circuit, and eventually Dodd moved in with Zaharias and Didrikson for the last six years of Didrikson's life. They never used the word "lesbian" to describe their relationship, but there is little doubt that their relationship was both sexual and romantic.
IIn 1953 Zaharias was diagnosed with colon cancer. After undergoing surgery, she made a comeback in 1954. She took the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, her only win of that trophy, and her 10th and final major with a U.S. Women's Open championship, one month after the surgery and while wearing a colostomy bag. With this win, she became the second-oldest woman to win a major LPGA championship tournament (behind Fay Crocker). Babe Zaharias now stands third to Crocker and Sherri Steinhauer. These wins made her the fastest player to reach 30 wins (five years and 22 days). In addition to continuing tournament play, Zaharias also served as the president of the LPGA from August 1952 to July 1955.
HHer colon cancer recurred in 1955. Despite her limited schedule of eight golfing events that season, Zaharias won her last two tournaments in competitive golf. On September 27, 1956, Zaharias died of her illness at the age of forty-five at the John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas. At the time of her death, she was still a top-ranked female golfer. She and her husband had earlier established the Babe Zaharias Fund to support cancer clinics. She is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in her hometown of Beaumont, Texas.
During her final years, Didrikson became known not only for her athletic abilities but as a public advocate for cancer awareness, at a time when many Americans refused to seek diagnosis or treatment for suspected cancer. She used her fame to raise funds for her cancer fund but also as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Her work in this arena was honored by US President Dwight Eisenhower on a visit to the White House.