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A golf champion gets the nod of history


In the late 1950s and well into the ’60s, a number of Idaho athletes were at the edge of dominating their respective sports.

Shirley Englehorn, from Caldwell, Idaho, at the west end of the Boise Valley, was one of them.

She won 11 times on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour and posted another win, not part of the tour.

She was born in 1940 and turned pro in 1958, winning her first tournament, the Eastern Open, by a three-stroke margin in 1962.

Her career was closely watched by everyone at the Idaho Statesman, where Publisher James Brown spent the evening hours checking the wire services to see what Idaho athletes were doing. Or he would come by the desk to get the latest information on Idaho athletes.

I met Shirley on one occasion, and wrote of her accomplishments as she stroked her way up the leaderboard in tournament after tournament. When she was doing well, publisher Brown would stop by and see how I was playing the story. If he approved, he would give a little nod.

She continued winning in every additional year in the ’60s, with the exceptions of 1965 and 1969. She won twice in 1970.

No one likes to play the game “what might have been,” but it would have been interesting in Shirley’s case.

Her career was seriously affected twice because of accidents. In her first, in 1960 while in Augusta, Georgia, to follow Masters Tournament play, she fell off a horse and was tossed into a tree, fracturing six vertebrae. Visitors at the hospital included Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, giving a clue to her status in the golf world. She was back on the tour a year later and chalked up another win some 28 months after her accident.

The second injury accident was in 1965, when a car she was driving left the road in Florida, leaving her with a crushed ankle.

She came back a year later to win again.

Perhaps her most prized win was the 1970 Women’s PGA Championship. In her winning career, she defeated such golfers as Jackie Pung, Ruth Jensen, JoAnne Carner, Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie, and Carol Mann.

No one can predict how the two major accidents took their toll on her playing career.

Shirley graduated from Caldwell High School in 1958, and entered the pro tour the next year.

She was the talk of the valley during her highly successful amateur tour, becoming the youngest player, at 15, to win the Dorothy Pease Trophy.

Shirley turned to a golf teaching career and earned her LPGA Master Professional certification in 1979.

She did, however, gain Hall of Fame honors, but as a teaching professional; that was in 2016. Golf was never far from Shirley’s lifestyle, and she excelled in all areas in which she was involved.

I will always remember publisher Brown asking, “How did Shirley do, and how are you playing it?”

He was a dedicated promoter of Idaho sports figures.


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