Winner of the 1966 LPGA Championship, Gloria Ehret, takes us back to the days of her youth growing up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Gloria, a multi-sport athlete, was introduces to golf by her father and uncle who needed a fourth to round out their group. Under the watchful eye of the pro at the local muni, she developed her game and, after an exhibition by Tommy Bolt at their local course, she was really hooked. Moves to Florida for junior college and then to Connecticut, allowed her to compete, with some success, in amateur events before she decided to turn pro and earn her Tour card in 1965. Listen in as Gloria remembers the women who were instrumental in founding and growing the LPGA Tour. Gloria Ehret begins her life story, "FORE the Good of the Game."
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"FORE the Good of the Game” is a golf podcast featuring interviews with World Golf Hall of Fame members, winners of major championships and other people of influence in and around the game of golf. Highlighting the positive aspects of the game, we aim to create and provide an engaging and timeless repository of content that listeners can enjoy now and forever. Co-hosted by PGA Tour star Bruce Devlin, our podcast focuses on telling their life stories, in their voices. Join Bruce and Mike Gonzalez “FORE the Good of the Game.”
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Gloria Ehret was motivated by her father and uncle to begin playing golf in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. At 16-years-old Gloria said she got a car and was able to drive herself to hit unlimited golf balls at the Allentown Municipal Golf Course. "I couldn't quite understand the thrill of chasing a white ball. But I had played basketball and volleyball and all kinds of sports, and that didn't really excite me. Then I found out how difficult (golf) was. That's how I got started," Ehret said.
Along with capturing the LPGA Championship in 1966 and the Birmingham Classic in 1973, Gloria had several top-10 and top-20 finishes during her 15-year career.
"I finished pretty much in the top 10's. I had four or five playoffs. I was pretty content to be in the top 10. I think that was probably my gold," Ehret said.
Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie said that Brooke Henderson reminds her of Gloria in her prime. "I can see a little bit of Brooke. Gloria was a hard worker and just continued to battle."
Gloria never expected to play professionally and joined her local Women's Golf Association in high school. She went on to attend St. Petersburg Junior college but dropped out to play amateur golf.
While competing as an amateur, Gloria clinched winning titles at the Tri-State Amateur Championship in 1963 and '64, the International Four-Ball title, and the Connecticut State Amateur championship.
One of Ehret's proudest moments was when she gained her player card in Baltimore in 1965. Historically, players had to place in the top 23 after four weeks to earn the right to compete in the LPGA.
"I was on the 16th or 17th hole, and I was quite nervous because I wanted that player's card. And as it turns out, I got my card which beat trying to qualify week after week, and I was actually a member of the LPGA, so that was quite memorable for me," Gloria said.
Gloria made a statement during her rookie year by finishing fifth in the LPGA Championship.
"I'll never forget that because my mom and dad had never been on an airplane. They flew from Allentown to Las Vegas, which was quite a feat for them. I was playing against Mickey Wright, who was the epitome of golf. (My dad) was one hole in front of me, trying to figure out what was going on. I don't know if he was waiting for me to make a mistake or Mickey to make a mistake, but fortunately, she did.”
Following an impressive rookie season, Gloria continued to gain attention and was named Most Improved Player in 1966.
"We played for the love of the game. We certainly weren't millionaires playing. But, in my third year out on tour, I was 12th on the money list and won $12,000 the year before. Gas was a quarter, and we stayed in hotels for five bucks a night. I had a mobile with my name on it that I could drive all year, which was really awesome," Ehret said.
Ehret stayed competitive throughout her LPGA career, receiving her highest earnings in 1978 with more than $42,000 and finishing 22nd on the money list.
While on tour, Gloria became close friends with Sandra Haynie and Gail Davis. Her most memorable playoff was against Haynie in Columbus.
"Sandra Haynie was coming down 18. She had the worst club in her bag, and she had to make a surge shot with that wedge, so I go, okay, I got this. And, of course, she just nailed it within three or four feet, and she was a fantastic putter. So, it was off to the playoffs, and I think we went six or seven holes before she won," she said.
On the other hand, Ehret said putting was her biggest weakness on the golf course and something she tried her entire career to improve.
"I was a terrible, terrible putter. Driving the golf ball was quite an ace for me; my iron plate was okay. But between the driving and my short game, I felt like my short game was pretty decent. I'd probably hit 16 to 17 greens in one round and walk away with 40 putts. It got to the point where it was mental," Gloria said.
Friend and competitor Gail Davis only stayed on tour for a year before she left to become a golf teacher. The Dallas native helped Ehret and Haynie prepare for tournaments.
"Gail, Sandra, and I were like the three musketeers. Our personalities just fit. Gail was a great student, a good player, and a great student of the golf game. So, when things were going off-kilter, I would come back and work with Gail; she would straighten me out,” she said.
Gloria decided she was done playing golf in 1980, which came as a shocker to many of her closest friends.
"I got to the point where I'd love to practice, but I didn't even want to practice anymore. I was done, period, and that was it," Ehret said.
"The travel is hard. There's a lot of things about the tour that is hard, but if you have the love and passion for the game that Gloria had, it's all worth it," Haynie said.
For 14 years after her sudden retirement, Gloria didn't hit a single golf ball. Instead, she got into the lawn mowing business and kept her golf background from her customers. But the internet didn't hide her past from curious fans, and they eventually encouraged Ehret to get back on the range.
Gloria has since embraced her golf career. She now plays with Haynie after weekly lunch dates and volunteers as a marshal at a local course in Dallas.
Besides her golf accolades, Ehret said creating the reunion in 2009 at The Chevron Championship was one of her greatest accomplishments. The event rekindled the majority of golf icons from the 60s and 70s.
"We had over a hundred girls that came to this reunion. A lot of them hadn't seen each other in 20 to 25 years. It was fantastic and probably one of the best things I ever did," Gloria said.
"She's a valuable friend. When friendships last 50 years, you know they're special. Gloria has just been a very true friend, not just to me but to many players. She's worked very hard to keep a lot of the older players up to date," Haynie said.