The life of this quiet and unassuming champion golfer began in Dublin, Ireland, on March 2, 1896. In the early 1900's, her family moved to the southern English coast. There, in 1912, golf became the passion of Vera Ramsay Hutchings Ford. For the next 30 years, in competitions spanning two continents, Vera made an indelible mark on the game.
At the 1915 Massachusetts Women's Amateur Championship, Vera showed great potential by overwhelming three-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion, Margaret Curtis, by the score of 9 & 8 to win the title. Many of Vera's later championships would be won by similarly lop-sided scores.
World War I, where she served in a motor transport division, temporarily waylaid Vera's golf career. During this period of upheaval, she married a prominent Winnipeg businessman, Harold Hutchings. Hutchings received notoriety during the war by refusing to enter the service after being drafted. In fact, he took the Canadian government to court, claiming he should not serve in the war because of business commitments. He claimed his Great West Saddlery Company would suffer irreparable harm if he were to serve overseas.
Upon returning to Winnipeg, Vera gave notice she was again a force to be reckoned with by winning the Manitoba Ladies Amateur by an incredible 22 strokes. Vera's meeting with Violet Sweeny at the 1913 British Women's Amateur may have led her to travel west to Royal Colwood Golf & Country Club to play in – and win – the 1922 PNGA. While here, she reunited with a fellow Britisher, Phil Taylor, the recently-hired professional at Victoria Golf Club. Taylor described Hutchings play as follows.
"To tell the truth, Mrs. Hutchings was my favorite player from the beginning. I had played with her and knew her length and accuracy. She is the possessor of a style that is of great grace and rhythm which one associates with Harry Vardon. She makes few mistakes and wastes little time in her address. Her chief object is to hit the ball straight for the green and she rarely misjudges distance. All through her rounds she led her opponents by large comfortable margins, although Miss Kavanagh, the California Champion, and Mrs. Sweeny, the British Columbia Champion, could not be treated lightly. In conclusion, the champion is a player of rare resource and temperament."
In 1924 Vera made national news when she captured the Canadian Women's Closed Championship. But shortly afterwards, family difficulties surfaced. She divorced Harold Hutchings and moved with her three children to the West Coast. Over the next 10 years, Vera won many golf championships, but it was found out later that her children were unaware of her accomplishments. In 1989 the B.C. Golf Museum presented a scrapbook of Vera's accomplishments to Mrs. Moxness, Vera's oldest child. Mrs. Moxness was stunned to learn of her mother's accomplishments in golf.
A Question of Stymies
In the 1924 PNGA Women's Amateur Championship at Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in Vancouver, B.C., Vera was involved in an incident that prevented her from winning yet another PNGA title. At this time, the USGA and RCGA did not always adopt the same sets of rules. The rule with the most wildly varying interpretations was the stymie. (The stymie, which made it legal to leave one's ball between an opponent's ball and the hole, was eliminated in 1953 when the mark, clean and replace era began.) The question was: Should it be in effect or not during this event in Canada?
By 1914 the RCGA had eliminated the rule altogether, while the USGA hadn't. A problem arose when the associations couldn't decide if the rule was in effect in Canada during an event – such as the 1924 PNGA Women's Amateur – governed by USGA rules. From the outcome of the championship, it's clear the Shaughnessy field was not properly advised of the ruling. Hutchings and Miss G. Barnett, the reigning Montana Women's Amateur champion, decided not to play stymies during their match and were subsequently disqualified.
The disqualifications opened the door for a new women's champion. Mrs. H.O. Young from Inglewood Country Club defeated Miss J. Halloran of Utah in the finale. Mrs. Hutchings showed her mettle when she later defeated Mrs. Young in an exhibition match following the tournament. For the next 10 years, Vera Hutchings dominated women's golf in the Northwest.
Another rules issue arose at the 1933 PNGA Women's Amateur Championship in Victoria. The question this time was which ball should be used – the smaller British one or the larger American version? The PNGA chose to allow both. Marian McDougall lost to Vera, 7 & 6, in the final. Marian later described Hutchings as a "classy competitor who was very courteous to her opponents." McDougall felt fortunate to have played Vera Hutchings in her first-ever PNGA final. After that match, she replaced Hutchings as the woman to beat in PNGA events for the next decade.
Despite all the laurels in her career, Hutchings' story is overshadowed by sadness. First, her children never shared in the glory of her incredible accomplishments. Apparently, she kept her golfing feats to herself. When Vera disappeared into obscurity in 1935, the Northwest golf community was left wondering why. No one knew Hutchings had played her entire career with an acute asthmatic condition, and that she was reliant on strong medication to control the ailment.
Finally, little mention was made of Vera's victories in local newspapers. Oh, there were the short items when she won, but not much else. The media slights probably occurred because Violet Sweeny was such an outgoing and engaging personality, while Vera was introverted and shy. It's clear from the old yellowed newspaper clippings that Violet was the darling. After all, she was called the "Queen" of the Northwest fairways. Only after she left the scene did the Northwest golf community recognize Vera Ramsay Hutchings Ford as a truly great champion.