At some point in the coming months, the World Golf Hall of Fame will reveal its entire class of 2021. There are 10 finalists, and the only selection that has been released to date is that of Tiger Woods. Several other candidates, from Tim Finchem and Dottie Pepper to Pádraig Harrington and Tom Weiskopf, are household names, especially in golf households. Then there are those of a more obscure but equally worthy nature, like Marion Hollins, who is one of two in the Contributor category (former PGA Tour commissioner Finchem is the other).
Hollins’ qualifications begin with her prowess as a tournament player. She competed in 15 national championships – winning one of them, the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She also was the captain of America’s victorious Curtis Cup team the first time those matches were contested in 1932. In addition, Hollins captured the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur three times and twice took the Long Island Women’s Amateur. Those were significant events back in the day.
Even more impressive was her work in developing golf courses and clubs. A founder of the Cypress Point Club on the Monterey Peninsula in California, Hollins secured the original option on that stunning, 170-acre oceanside site and recommended that Alister MacKenzie take over as course architect after the original designer, Seth Raynor, died soon after he had begun moving dirt and sand there.
Hollins then created Pasatiempo, a sumptuous retreat in the rolling hills above Santa Cruz, Calif., once again engaging MacKenzie as the architect of the course that would serve as its centerpiece. That track opened in September 1929, with Hollins playing in the inaugural foursome with Bobby Jones. Soon after, Jones and his colleague Clifford Roberts set about creating Augusta National Golf Club. According to David Owen in his book, The Making of the Masters, they based many of their plans for Augusta on what Hollins had created at Pasatiempo, even hiring MacKenzie to design the course.
“(Marion Hollins) is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of the work I like. I want her views and also her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out. I do not know any man who has sounder ideas.” – Alister MacKenzie (from a letter to Clifford Roberts about the creation of Augusta National)
While that track was under construction, MacKenzie asked Hollins to travel east on his behalf and make an honest assessment of how the Augusta project was coming along. In Owen’s telling, Roberts was none too pleased that MacKenzie, who was living in a home he had erected off the sixth fairway at Pasatiempo, was not making the trip himself. But the architect stood his ground. “She is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of the work I like,” he wrote in a letter to the Augusta co-founder. “I want her views and also her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out. I do not know any man who has sounder ideas.”
Hollins was born on Dec. 3, 1892, and grew up on a 600-acre estate in the Long Island, N.Y., town of East Islip. Her father, H.B. Hollins, owned a Wall Street brokerage firm and was the first president of the Metropolitan Golf Association. Hers was a privileged upbringing and one that included a lot of sports. She excelled at many of them, becoming a competitive swimmer, a celebrated sharpshooter, a local tennis champion and a racer of automobiles. In addition, Hollins was a top polo player and at the time was the only women in America to carry a men’s handicap in that sport.
Hollins also could swing a golf club. At 19, she was runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Then eight years later, she won that championship, defeating Alexa Stirling in the final as Stirling was attempting to win her fourth Women’s Amateur in a row.
Two years later, Hollins made her first foray in golf club development when she founded the Women’s National Golf & Tennis Club in Glen Head on Long Island. She designed the golf course with Raynor and Devereux Emmet and hired the head golf professional, the Englishman Ernest Jones, who was regarded as one of the great instructors of the early 20th century even after he lost one of his legs in World War I. Hollins also oversaw the building of 22 tennis courts, half of which were grass. The club was created by women for women, with men welcomed on to the premises only as guests. And it prospered before going under during the Great Depression. (The course, however, survived and is today part of Glen Head Country Club.)
Writing in The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf, Rhonda Glenn described Hollins as “independent” and someone who “cared little for the niceties of fashion and most often could be seen striding about in rumpled tweeds.”
“She wore her hair in a severe bob and often donned a cloche hat at a rakish angle for golf,” Glenn added. “She wore skirts but preferred them to have pockets in which she could thrust her large hands.”
In 1926, Hollins moved to California and began working in the sales department at the Del Monte Properties Company. The firm was run by Samuel F.B. Morse, a distant cousin of the man who had invented the telegraph, and it had developed the Pebble Beach Golf Links. It was in her new job that Hollins spearheaded the founding of Cypress Point – and then initiated the hiring of MacKenzie as the course architect.
She assisted Mackenzie in his work, most famously with No. 16. “To give honor where it is due, I must say that, except for minor details in construction, I was in no way responsible for the hole,” MacKenzie wrote in The Spirit of St. Andrews. He then provided what has become perhaps the best-known anecdote about the Cypress Point founder and one of the finest pieces of lore in the game.
“It was largely due to the vision of Miss Marion Hollins,” he added. “It was suggested to her by the late Seth Raynor that it was a pity the carry over the ocean was too long to enable a hole to be designed on this particular site. Miss Hollins said she did not think it was an impossible carry. She then teed up a ball and drove to the middle of the site for the suggested green.”
From there, Hollins headed north to the Santa Cruz area, where she birthed Pasatiempo. She had seen the rolling property with distant views of the Monterey Bay while horseback riding.
While golf was the go-to sport there, Hollins also built tennis courts, a pool, a polo field and bridle trails. There also was a real estate component to Pasatiempo, and it was on one of those homesites that MacKenzie built the house where he and his wife, Hilda, resided.
The world may have been in turmoil at the time, with the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. But things for Hollins were going swimmingly. The course at Pasatiempo was well-received, and the retreat attracted its fair share of celebrities, sports stars and socialites. She also was flush with money, thanks to an oil-lease investment that had paid off in 1930. Then came that trip to Augusta on MacKenzie’s behalf and her stint as captain of the 1932 Curtis Cup team.
But Hollins’ life took a nasty turn five years later. She suffered serious head injuries when a drunk driver crashed into her car. Her financial situation also deteriorated as she struggled to keep Pasatiempo afloat. Hollins recovered well enough to play some competitive golf again. Then she came down with cancer and died of the disease in 1944, just 51 years old.
Hers was a short life filled with remarkable accomplishments. That makes her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame a no-brainer, this time around or the next.
Hollins during the North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst, N.C., circa 1925. Photo: courtesy USGA Archives, John W. Fischer III Collection.
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