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November 15, 2004

Marlene Stewart Streit


THE MODERATOR: We want to thank everybody for coming today. On the stage with us, as most of you know, Marlene Stewart Streit. She was selected according to the veterans category and will be inducted tonight.

Would you start with a couple opening comments, Marlene, on how you're feeling today, the anticipation of what you have tonight.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Well, I'm thrilled to be here. I'm really excited to be here. It's a great honor, just a tremendous honor, to be the first Canadian, a lifetime amateur, to be in here. I thought this was just for professionals.

I've had a wonderful life with golf. It's just been fabulous. To think that I'm here in this shrine, I mean, this is the pinnacle for me. When you go through these hallowed halls in here with all the greats of golf who have done so much for this game, you know, all of these people are people I have admired my lifetime, which has been fairly lengthy. These are all the people I've respected and admired my whole life.

Q. When did it start to sink in? Talking to you after it happened, it didn't seem to quite sink in at that point with you. You know what I'm talking about. Has it sunk in yet is the question or when did it sink in?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Actually, I think it's sunken in fairly quickly, probably about four hours. I think when you make that drive down that World Golf Hall of Fame Way, then to come into the Hall of Fame. I came last May. I can't tell you and maybe everybody here knows but the change in this Hall of Fame it's like night and day. They have done a fabulous job. It flows so nice. It's so beautiful.

For me to walk in there and see, number one, that Hall of Fame with all of what do you call those things?

THE MODERATOR: Bronze plaques.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: There I am right among the Ss with Sorenstam, Snead, Payne Stewart. It doesn't get much better than that.

I never had the opportunity to meet Bobby Jones. JoAnne Carner, my good friend, Mickey Wright, to see Kathy Whitworth, Arnold Palmer, I never played golf with Arnold, I did play with Sam Snead. I never expected I mean, I never expected to be in this hallowed hall with all of these people who have really meant so much to me and have meant so much to this great game of golf all over the world.

Q. Could you talk about the '56 US Women's Amateur. I know that was the first time you met JoAnne Carner. She told me a story about how she knocked a couple of drives way past you.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Probably more than a couple. Probably 18 (laughter).

Q. She said, "She would pull out her wood and put the ball inside my wedge shot." To you, was that one of the highlights of your career?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Well, it was. I mean, to me that is probably my most important win. I've had a lot of wonderful, thrilling wins. But to win the US Amateur in '56, JoAnne had just won the US Junior. She was 17. I guess I was 22, had just graduated from University.

I'm sure JoAnne thought, "Good, got her." I thought she had me, too. But it is true. I like to think if JoAnne hadn't been so busy. She tells the story all the time to me that she said, "I outdrove you by a hundred yards, and I know that because I paced it." So, you know, if JoAnne hadn't been so busy pacing, she might have won that match and I wouldn't even be here tonight (laughter).

Q. Could you speak to what it must feel like to be the first Canadian inducted here? It says World Golf Hall of Fame, a Japanese man, a Canadian, Charlie Sifford, the first African American. It must be well received at home.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: This is huge for Canada. If I may just say how privileged I feel to be in this class. I think it's very unique. Well, terribly international. Look what Charlie's done for the game. You know, for the black community, it's fabulous.

To be in this group is very special. I've always admired Tom. Isao is probably the most wonderful gentlemen you could ever meet, just wonderful. I had never really met either one of them before, I don't think. But at the media day back in Savannah, they just treated me with open arms. It was so nice. You know, they gave me hugs, welcomed me. I was afraid I was going to go up there, and they would say, "Who is this little gray haired old lady hanging around?" They were so welcoming, it meant so much.

For Canada, I think I'm just the vehicle for this whole thing. This really is huge for Canada. And as far as I'm concerned, this induction is for Canada, for all of Canada, but mainly for the Canadian golfing community, the media, you know, the professionals up there, the golf associations have done so much for me. You know, it's the people who have helped me along the way. The Canadian golfing community has just been fabulous all across the country. I'm always greeted very warmly wherever I go.

Q. If you were writing a thesis, and the subject was "golf and women," give me four points that you would cover in your dissertation.


Q. No, it's not. I thought I'd leave it broad enough for you to postulate however you wished.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Golf and women? Isn't golf just golf? I've always felt golf is golf. I mean, I can't get into the whole golf and just women. I mean, look at the pictures right there, the tight corsets that they wore. I guess, women endure a lot (laughter). I mean, you know, in the '50s, when the LPGA started, I was around at that time, too, just starting. They were pioneers. To see those gals travel in their cars all across the country, you know, they were terrific.

I didn't do that because I think maybe I'm just a hometown, homey person, but it didn't appeal to me to travel. Then I was married and fortunately was able to play as much amateur golf as I did. In those days, I think a lot of the good amateurs stayed amateur. Barbara McIntyre, for one instance. A lot of us stayed amateur. I had a wonderful family. I had the best of all worlds.

I'm not answering your question very well (laughter).

For women's golf, might not be able to do a very good job at that. I'm sorry.

Q. I think you've done a fantastic job.


Q. Have you ever over the years sat back and wondered what if, if you had turned pro, certainly it's a lot of money now, but whatever money they were making even then, your prime earning years, was still more than you were making as an amateur? If not, why not?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: I think in those days, Louise Suggs sat at my table last night. She explained it very well. I'll have the statistics wrong because I don't really know, but Louise said she won something like 58 tournaments, and I don't know how many majors, what they call majors, maybe, I don't know, 20, 16, how many Louise ended up making and she didn't even make $100,000. That was a lot of money in those days.

I have no regrets. I have no regrets whatsoever. I was able to play. I played in a lot of US Women's Opens. I was low amateur in one once. I played in the Tampa Women's Open. Louise and I were talking about that last night, in 1952, right after I had won my first Canadian at 15, when I was 17 years old. That January, I guess my school principal let me out of school for a couple of weeks. I played in the Tampa Women's Open. That's when I played with the Babe in 1952. I came for several years, then I went to Rollins from '52 to '56, was able to play golf all year round down there.

You know, there weren't golf scholarships in those days, but I had the opportunity to go and did, and it took me you know, I did a few tournaments. I won tournaments in the summer during that time, which made a huge difference to my game, to be able to play all year long. But I really didn't win anything major out of the country until '56, the year I graduated, and I think it took me it's a little bit of a Canadianism. It takes Canadians a while to realize that they can play as well as the Americans. It's just golf. You hit the ball from here to there, get it in the hole. But there seems to be a little trick that goes along, and the Canadians don't think they could do it. I've tried to pass that on to them.

It's just a game, go play. Play as well as the rest. But for some reason, we just call it a Canadianism in Canada.

Q. The Rollins College thing, was that basically because it was warm weather, that you could play golf, Peggy Kirk Bell went to school there, there was a lineage already started, and since it's continued. Why that school and that town from all the way up north?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Well, it was sort of a play school of the south at that time, and it was fun. No, I wouldn't say that. We all got a good education there, if we tried.

True, it was to be in the sun. Yeah, the guys went there. Pete and Alice went there, they met there. Of course, Peggy, you know, was there a couple years before I was. I don't know why we all went to Rollins, but we had a good crowd that went. That definitely was to go and play. It was actually my husband's aunt and uncle who really encouraged me to go. He said, "You can't get any better if you stay where it's snowing." How true it was.

Q. You were already married?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: No, I wasn't married. I was married in 1957, just right after I graduated.

Q. He was your boyfriend at that point already?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: I knew him from when I was 16 years old. I had met him at my first Canadian in 1950. I don't know. Somehow I just had a feeling I may end up marrying him, which I did. He was kind of the strong, quiet type. Not that I could push him around. And then after I won the US Amateur, I worked in the office for his uncle for a while. Really had a lot of time to work on Doug then.

Q. Do you remember anything about playing the Shell match against Mickey Wright? I think it was Toronto Golf Club.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: I do. I played in two of them. I played with Marilyn Smith, and then I played with Mickey at the Toronto Golf Club. That was such a thrill to be able to play with Mickey. To me Mickey Wright is probably the best lady player we've ever had up until Annika here. Can't skip over all these others. Oh, my goodness, that's bad to do. Lopez, all the rest.

But for a great golf swing, I think Mickey was just the epitome. It's just too bad that she doesn't, you know, come to these things because people love to see her. Such a fabulous person. And that match with Mickey was great. She was probably outdrove me by a hundred yards, too. The match went fairly well up until the last few holes. She made a couple of long putts. I guess I missed a couple. And she won. But it was thrilling. It was so nice to play at Toronto Golf Club.

Of course, Gene Sarazen, Jimmy (inaudible) were doing the commentary. It was very fun. Fred Rayfield, those were in the days where they did Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. It would take a half hour for them to set up, then they would say, "Marlene, hit." Looked like you were playing a complete game.

"Okay, hit."

"Okay, fine."

It was fun. Great matches.

Q. What would you say is your single greatest achievement or moment in the game of golf?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Maybe tonight. This is fabulous. I mean, to be here, to be in this hallowed hall. It doesn't get much better than that. I mean, you can win trophies and awards and everything else. But, you know, it's the friends you make along the way. I've made so many wonderful friends through golf.

Q. As a competitor, is there one single moment that you could point to the way Arnie might point to Cherry Hills in 1960? Is there one sort of singular moment?

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: There is, when JoAnne and I played in 1956, and when I won. I mean, to me, that is the most important win that I've had. All the wins were important. But to win the US Amateur has opened many, many doors for me. Like they say, if you get an education, they can never take that away from you. They can never take away what you've won either.

Q. You're a lifelong amateur. You're bronzed not far from here with the likes of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. Aren't many sports where you can play as an amateur for a lifetime and end up next to names like that. Just reflect for a moment on that.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: Well, it's true. I have a little question I asked people the last few weeks when I was thinking about what I to say tonight. I asked them, "What do you like best about golf?" This is the exact thing. It's a game. You can play on your own or with your friends or at the same time. It's also a game where you can stand in Yankee Stadium and maybe hit that home run. You can't do that. But in golf you can stand up there and hit the shot that Tiger hit at Glen Abbey over that bunker on 18 that day, and you can try to do that.

Q. You can try.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: But you can do that whole thing.

And then to end up to be I forget the question now.

Q. Just that you could play as an amateur for a lifetime and still be recognized for achievement, where theoretically in baseball or football, it would be hard to play as an amateur for a lifetime and end up in a Hall of Fame.

MARLENE STEWART STREIT: I know. You know, I don't know. That's why it's taken me a long time to get my head to this. Hopefully I've got it there now, because I don't have much longer to get it there.

But it's true. This is not something that I played golf for. You know, why I play for the awards and all that. I just played for the love of the game. And to have this happen, I just spent a little time with JoAnne, and there I go, a little Canadian.

But playing golf as an amateur, the professionals spend hours, work so hard on their game. I must say I worked really hard on my game, too. But to be able to enjoy the game the way I have, to enjoy playing for my country as an amateur, and still be recognized tonight, is just I mean, it's just totally way beyond the wildest dreams, for sure. It's just unbelievable to me.

I'll be forever grateful for, number one, being nominated for this through our Canadian Golf Association, but also for the great support that I had from so many people, I can't even begin to think about it, that would have the confidence that I might deserve a spot in this Hall of Fame. This is the epitome. I don't know how much better it gets than this.

Did that answer it? I'm not sure.

Q. Very well, thank you.


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