Marion Hollins was born on December 3, 1892, to a socially prominent and wealthy family in Gatsby country – East Islip, Long Island. She was the consummate athlete, and was proficient in all sporting endeavors she undertook, including; golf, anything equestrian, tennis, marksmanship, swimming, and car racing. Although we at Pasatiempo mostly recognize her golf accolades, to many Marion was considered the greatest horsewoman of the century.
At age twenty Marion emerged into the competitive landscape of amateur golf as runner up in the Metropolitan Golf Association Championships. In 1913 Marion made her first bid for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and in 1921, she defeated Alexa Stirling to become the reigning U.S. Women's Amateur Champion. In addition to the Amateur, Marion’s golf legacy includes three Metropolitan Golf Championships, two Long Island Championships, and an unequaled eight Pebble Beach Championships. In 1932, Marion was chosen team captain in the inaugural Curtis Cup matches played in Wentworth, England, pitting the best U.S. women amateur team against the best British/Irish women amateur team. It was noted by many players that Marion’s strategy led the U.S. to an upset victory over Joyce Wetherd’s British/Irish team.
Marion was a pioneer in the field of golf course development, and is considered by some to be the only woman to be a golf course developer. In her life she developed three world class golf courses: The Women's National Golf and Tennis Club, Cypress Point, and Pasatiempo.
Marion’s pioneering spirit created the impetus to develop a golf and tennis club exclusively for women, and hence the genesis of the Women’s National Golf and Tennis Club. To succeed in this endeavor she would go to Britain and study the great courses to gain an appreciation of golf architecture. There, she would also meet Ernest Jones, legendary golf instructor, and secure his commitment to be the Women’s National head professional. Ernest would subsequently become the first head pro at Pasatiempo.
In 1922 Marion was introduced to S.F.B. Morse, the developer of the Monterey Peninsula. Morse installed her as the athletic director of the Pebble Beach resort, and one of her first moves was to establish the Pebble Beach Championship for Women, which made its debut in 1923. Because of her success, Hollins event attracted top women golfers from across the nation. Meeting and working for Morse lead to Marion’s second golf course development, Cypress Point, a course considered by many to be the greatest golf course in the world. It was at Cypress that Marion developed her life-long friendship and professional relationship with the World Golf Hall of Fame architect, Alister MacKenzie.
Marion’s vision for the Pasatiempo Resort included her third golf course development project, something at which she has become exceptionally competent, as evidenced by the legacy of Cypress Point and Pasatiempo. Perhaps the greatest testimonial to her skills as a designer/developer comes from MacKenzie who wanted to send Marion—to whom he referred as his associate—in his place to Augusta for a site inspection. This alone is a great validation. Of course Clifford Roberts, Augusta’s Chairman, objected to MacKenzie sending Marion (a woman) and MacKenzie wrote of Marion:
“She has been associated with me in three golf courses and not only are her own ideas valuable, but she is thoroughly conversant in regard to the character of work I like. I want her views and her personal impressions in regard to the way the work is being carried out.”
MacKenzie then states:
“I do not know of any man who has sounder ideas.”
From opening day in 1929, to the day she left Pasatiempo in 1941, Marion hosted the likes of Bobby Jones, Will Rogers, Mary Pickford, the Rothschilds, the Vanderbuilts, Babe Zaharias, Spencer and Louise Tracy, and many others. Pasatiempo was a haven for the Hollywood crowd, and a great destination spot for the East Coast socialites.
Simply put, Marion was an incredible person, and given the period of history in which she lived, is perhaps unequaled in her contributions to the legacy of golf.
For more information about the life of Marion Hollins, we recommend Champion in a Man’s World by David E. Outerbridge, available through Amazon.