Sunday marks the 40th annual Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, a special event for the women’s golf team. The tournament is the Longhorns’ only home event of the season, other than the Big 12 Championship, and is an elite national event that honors a long-time contributor and special member of the program: former Longhorn Betsy Rawls.
Rawls has been an icon in women’s golf since the beginning of her professional career in 1951, one year after the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour began. After an impressive tenure at UT, where she studied math and physics, Rawls won four U.S. Women’s Open titles and 55 LPGA Tour events.
“It’s an honor to play for Texas and to follow in the footsteps of someone who [is] as great as she is,” sophomore Bertine Strauss said. “It makes you want to play a little bit harder to represent the school and everything it stands for.”
Rawls and the other women golfers of her time made waves in the founding era of the LPGA Tour.
Rawls racked up 10 tour victories in 1959 alone, and earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August 1964. Once she retired in 1975, she assumed the position of tournament director for the LPGA, and used her star power to advance the visibility of the sport.
In 1981 she became executive director of the McDonald’s Championship, and continued to work in golf and play on a regular basis. In 1983, she was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987.
The invitational began at Texas in 1974 when former women’s golf head coach Pat Weis created what was originally known as the Texas Invitational. The event was renamed in honor of Rawls in 1977, following the golf legend’s retirement from professional events.
Every year the invitational is held at the UT Golf Club, and the Longhorns have won the overall team event seven times. This year, a youthful group of players look to win number eight.
“A lot of good teams are playing, but we have to think about winning,” Strauss said. “There is no reason to start playing if you want to come in second.”
The team is excited about the on-campus tournament.
“It will help the two freshmen starting this weekend feel a little more at home,” Strauss said. “We’ll have a good advantage.”
Other than bringing home a win this weekend, the team hopes to honor Rawls, a pioneer for the sport with a heavy influence on the Texas program.
“It’s an honor to play for Texas and to follow in the footsteps of someone who [is] as great as she is,” Strauss said. “It makes you want to play a little bit harder to represent the school and everything it stands for.”