The Fairway Flapper (8-25-1924)

On this date, for the first time, a golfer was featured on the cover of Time magazine.  This particular golfer was also the first female athlete to make the cover.  She was Chicago’s own Edith Cummings.

Born in 1899, Cummings grew up among the city’s social elite.  She attended the best schools, made her formal debut, and along the way became a golfer.  When she started playing in tournaments, she became a favorite of the galleries.  She was young, beautiful, and—as Time put it—“bursting with boyish energy and spirit.”

Cummings became known as The Fairway Flapper.  There were no female golf pros yet, so the biggest tournament was the U.S. Women’s Amateur.  In 1923 Cummings broke through to win the event.  She did it in grand fashion, beating three-time champ Alexa Stirling in the final match.

Cummings became a national celebrity.  Her story was featured in newspapers and all the “ladies’ magazines.”  The Time cover was the climax.  A year had passed, Cummings was about to defend her title, and was heavily favored to repeat.

But the magic was gone.  Cummings was eliminated in an early round of match play.  After 1924, she seemed to lose interest in competitive golf.  She never won another tournament.

In 1934 Cummings married businessman Curtis Munson.  When she died in 1984, most of the sporting world had forgotten her.  And yet, Edith Cummings did attain her own bit of indirect immortality.

While in high school, she’d met a young Princeton student named F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Years later, in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald created the character “Jordan Baker”—a champion golfer—based on Cummings.  Trouble was, in Gatsby, the lady golfer is a cheater.

Nobody ever accused Edith Cummings of any rules-bending or underhanded play.  Win or lose, the Fairway Flapper from Chicago was always a credit to the game.

—30—

 

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