Though Marian McDougall, a third-generation Waverley Country Club member, followed in the footsteps of her grandfather and father at the club, in her early teens horseback-riding was the family's primary form of recreation. When her two brothers reached an age when they had to "go out to earn a living," her father sold the horses and encouraged Marian to take up golf. Neil Christian, Waverley's professional in 1928, did not have a junior golf program at the club per se. But, according to McDougall, "three or four of us were introduced to the game through him."
McDougall said Mel Smith at the Lloyd's Center Golf Course was the only teacher she ever really had. Smith had been the professional at Waverley before transferring to Lloyd's when it opened in 1931. Although a frequent playing companion of her's, golf pro Ted Longworth never coached her. "He wanted to totally tear my swing apart and I was not prepared to do that," McDougall said of Longworth. It is unreasonable to consider how Longworth might have taught a more successful swing than the one she developed under Smith's tutelage.
During a 1989 interview conducted by Bob McReynolds, the historian for the Oregon Golf Association, Marian was asked how many tournaments she had won over her stellar career. "I don't really know, but I would surmise about 30 if you included all the club championships." Not too long after her first round of golf at the old West Hills course in Portland in 1928, Marian's father encouraged her to enter the OGA Junior Girls Championship the next year. Florence Sellars was a year older, and she roundly defeated McDougall, who quickly fell behind after losing the first six holes. Though her introduction to championship golf was not auspicious, she persevered such that, in 1930 and 1931, McDougall rose up to become Oregon's junior champion.
The Launch of a Championship Career
McDougall entered the OGA Women's Amateur Championship and the PNGA Women's Amateur in Vancouver, B.C. as a 15-year-old. She lost in the finals of the first flight in the PNGA to Hilda McCauslan Beck, a future Washington State Women's Golf Association Amateur title holder. In later years, McDougall credited those two tournaments with making her a strong and steely competitor.
"I will never forget that first day on the first tee. I totally fanned the ball." Of her whiff, McDougall said, "That was one of the best experiences [I] could have had because the world did not come to an end. The sky did not fall. It took me a long time to win the Oregon championship. But losing was a great learning experience. I mean you learn things by losing matches you do not learn by winning. You go home thinking about the mistakes you made rather than about all the good shots you made."
With her education in the school of hard knocks, McDougall went on to dominate Northwest golf between 1936 and 1940. The records show she won a total of four Oregon Women's Amateur championships. "The 1935 tournament will always be something that will stick in my craw," she told McReynolds. "We played a tournament which was called the Oregon State Women's Open Amateur Championship. I won it at Multnomah and I have always considered it the Oregon championship for that particular year."
At the time, Charles Haas was creating quite a stir because golf associations were not allowing public links players to participate in their championships. Haas wanted to change all that, and McDougall agreed with him. "How could a state championship be such when a large group of participants were not allowed to play?," she asked. Haas' entreaties, combined with pressure from the media, caused the OGA to cancel the men's and women's events in 1935.
The Big Breakthrough
McDougall's first important win came in the 1934 Women's Western Golf Association (WWGA) Championship at Portland Golf Club. Mrs. Martin Hunter, the star of Portland's Alderwood Country Club, earned medalist honors with a 77. McDougall was close behind at 79. In the finale, Marian overwhelmed Mrs. Guy Riegel, the 1926 PNGA Women's Amateur champion, 9 & 7.
In her later years, McDougall Herron reflected on her PNGA accomplishments.
"The PNGA sticks out in my mind so much because going to the Northwest Championship you were going away from home. At the Oregon Championship, you were just going across town in most instances. You were so excited because you had to pack your clubs and bags. Staying in a hotel was a whole different experience. The PNGA Board [members] were always such nice guys. They were just such lovely people and made you so comfortable and welcome. And, oh, the so many friends you met each year. Many of these friendships have lasted a lifetime."
McDougall played in every PNGA Women's Amateur between 1930 and 1941, a period when she accomplished a feat probably never to be equaled in the association's history. She won the women's championship four consecutive years, in four different cities, on eight different golf courses – all against top-flight competition. At this time, the women had a more difficult task than the men in winning a championship. Beginning in 1920, the PNGA Amateur Men's and Women's championships were conducted at two venues. The women played their qualifying and first three rounds on a secondary course. They then transferred to the main host course – which the men had been playing since opening day – for the semifinals and final. The concluding two days were played without benefit of any practice rounds on the host course.
The women began expressing displeasure with this arrangement in the late 1930's. They also wanted more say in the PNGA operations when the championship was hosted by Spokane Country Club in 1944. It would be another 34 years before the male-dominated organization acquiesced and altered the PNGA's constitution.
The Amazing String
McDougall began her incredible string of PNGA victories in 1936. In the final that year against an old foe, Florence Sellars of Portland, she had the match well in hand through the 34th hole. Marian later recalled that match as well as the 1937 championship.
"I can still remember the people going crazy around the green. It was a long, long hole. Florence hooked her drive into the rough. I guess it was unplayable because she had to walk back to the tee and shoot again. After I had hit two, she was lying four and was still away. She walked up to the ball and smacked it straight into the cup. Everybody around the green was leaping up and down. I nearly had a fit because I still had to get onto the green and down in two putts to keep from losing the hole. I finally won the match on the 36th hole.
"In 1937 at Tacoma I played the best competitive round of my golfing career." At one time or another, McDougall held six course records. This was a most memorable day, not because of a great shot or particular happening on the course, but rather for what transpired later that evening. For the record, in the morning she shot 35 on the back nine en route to a course-record 77. According to McDougall, her opponent, Mrs. Griggs, a frequent champion of Tacoma Country & Golf Club and a PNGA finalist in 1910, exemplified the "best example of sportsmanship during that match. I just had such a jump on her after the morning round. But she just went right out there cheering for me, hoping I would do well. She was truly a great champion.
"The reason I remember the tournament so vividly was because on the way home we stopped at Chehalis at the St. Helen's Hotel for dinner. Rudie Wilhelm and his wife were there. Rudie had been the referee in our match earlier in the day. I was still feeling pretty good, proud of myself that I had played the best round of my career and set a course record in the process. I thought I had played pretty well. We had just sat down when Rudie started chewing me out. He said 'Why did you miss those two putts on the back nine? You should have had a 33. And that stymie, you could have bounced off her ball into the hole.' But that was Rudie. He had just decided that 35 was not good enough."
Rising to the Occasion
In 1938 at Waverley, McDougall defeated one of the best players to ever participate in a PNGA championship. From 1934 to 1945, Betty Jameson, born in Norman, Oklahoma, dominated women's golf in America. She won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1939 and 1940, the Southern Women's Amateur in 1934, the Texas Women's Championship each year between 1935 and 1938, the Women's Trans-Mississippi in 1937, and the 1940 Women's Western Open. At Waverley in 1938, Jameson was clearly the favorite and she came through by winning medalist honors with a 75. After McDougall beat Jameson in the final, 3 & 1, she revealed how she was able to overcome such a formidable foe.
"I think the only reason I was successful was because I was all steamed up about the idea that she was allowed to come up to the Northwest Championship when she lived in Fort Worth, Texas. It was being played on my home course and I just somehow or other was not about to lose to her. She was a real shotmaker. In the final round she flew the ball onto the middle of the 13th green in two, a 490-yard par 5. She was able to hit her drive far enough over the hill so that the ball hit on the downslope and rolled far enough to hit a four wood onto the green. I never hit that green in two in my life, and I've played that hole a thousand times."
McDougall was not a big hitter like some players on the national scene at the time. But she had a knack for defeating champions such as Jameson, Patty Berg, Helen Hicks, Helen Dettweiler and others, even though they were much better ball strikers. She once analyzed her success in big matches.
"What I think it was lay in the fact [that] I could get keyed up to play over my head when I got matched against someone who was supposed to be better than me. Usually I was only successful that one day, however. I would not sleep that night and the next day anyone could beat me. My everyday golf was not as good as my tournament golf."
Jameson returned in 1941 to Spokane and Manito Golf & Country Club, where she finally added the coveted PNGA crown to her laurels. A rematch of the 1938 final did not happen as McDougall lost to Sissy Green of Portland in the semifinals. Jameson defeated Green in the final, 6 & 5, and the spectators were not treated to a showdown between the two leading contenders entering the event. The newspaper reporters had speculated on such a match all during championship week.
Stepping Onto the National Stage
Though the actual date is unknown, Marion married Joseph Herron sometime between 1939 and 1948, most likely during World War II. After that time, Mrs. Herron experienced moderate success in national and international events. In 1949 she probably helped Grace DeMoss in DeMoss' win in the Canadian Women's Amateur. Grace Lenczyk, the reigning champion in both the U.S. Women's Amateur and Canadian Women's Amateur, was the one to beat going into the tournament. But Herron knocked her off in the semifinals. As Marian had said earlier – when anyone could beat her on the day after winning a "big" match, DeMoss did just that in the championship, edging her, 2 & 1.
Although she never won the U.S. Women's Amateur, Marian McDougall Herron set a trend that produced champions from the region. She was the first Northwest woman to travel to the East and participate in national events, and will forever be recognized as a trailblazer for Northwest women's golf. Because of this commitment to play in golf's most important events, she was named a director of the Women's Western Golf Association from 1936 to 1952, and served as a member of the USGA Women's Committee from 1941 to 1952.
McDougall Herron once asserted to the USGA that, "We in the Northwest have a golf course out here of the caliber that is suitable to stage a U.S. Women's Amateur tournament." In 1952 the USGA took her up on the challenge, and came to Portland to hold the U.S. Women's Amateur at Waverley Country Club, which the colorful Jackie Pung won.
Marian was once asked how she would like to be remembered in Northwest golf circles.
"I would really like to be remembered . . . as the first woman from the area who was in a position to go East to play in the big tournaments. I hope I opened the door of opportunity to a lot of young people. I like to feel that I could have given the idea to parents to have their daughters participate in golf so that one day they could also compete on the national scene. I hope I might have played a little role."
When reviewing the first half-century of the PNGA, the woman who accomplished the most in golfing circles would have to be Marian McDougall Herron.