Marion Hollins: The 'It Girl' of golf who broke down barriers

    (CNN)Marion Hollins was never afraid to push boundaries.

    Golf could be an unforgiving sport for women, in particular at a time when women's rights were severely restricted in the US.
    However, Hollins became one of the leading figures in the sport during the first half of the last century, with her fingerprints all over a few of the most famous courses in America.
      From star amateur golfer to key cog in the creation of the most famous course in the world, her admission into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2022 was arguably a long time coming.
        Emily Chorba, Pasatiempo board member and historian -- one of the iconic courses Hollins developed and founded -- believes she was much more than just a golf course developer.
        "I think she became the It Girl," Chorba told CNN Sport. "But she was also a social influencer way before the social media tools of today.
        "And she was doing it in the days [of] letter writing, telegraphs. She just was a big influencer and apparently very fun to be around. She was a social influencer before it really was a term."


          Born in 1892, money wasn't an issue for Hollins and her family.
          Her father, H.B. Hollins, worked on Wall Street, owning a brokerage firm and was a business associate of William K. Vanderbilt and J. P. Morgan.
          Growing up on her family estate in Long Island, Hollins was exposed to various different sports.
          She was a proficient horse rider and tried her hand at many different things, including swimming, tennis, race car driving and golf. Chorba describes her as being a "tomboy" growing up with four brothers.
          According to David Owen -- author of "The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament" -- Hollins was the only woman in the US with a male polo handicap.
          Although her father's estate went bankrupt in 1913, it didn't appear to hinder Hollins' burgeoning golf playing career.
          Hollins drives during the second day of the Ladies Open Golf Championship at St Andrews, Scotland, on May 15, 1929.
          In the same year, she finished runner-up at the U.S. Women's Amateur. Eight years later, she finally won the prestigious tournament. At the time, it was the biggest tournament in women's golf.
          She would later go on to captain the first-ever US team at the Curtis Cup in 1932 -- the biennial tournament which sees teams from the US and Great Britain & Ireland go head-to-head.
          But an experience in 1922 -- combined with her dedication towards fighting for women's rights -- sparked her interest in developing golf courses, specifically for women.


          At the start of the 20th century, women in the US didn't have the right to vote. Their rights, in general, were few and far between.
          During the 1920s, Hollins was socially active, marching with the suffragettes under the banner 'Failure is Impossible,' according to David Outerbridge -- who married one of Hollins' nieces -- in his book, "Champion in a Man's World: The Biography of Marion Hollins."
          And according to Chorba, after Hollins and some her friends were denied entry to a golf club on the basis of their gender, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
          She set her mind on creating a golf and tennis club exclusively for women, a safe haven for them to come and play the sport they loved away from any prejudice.
          "So that's what I think sparked her interest because here she fought for women's voting, in the 20s," Chorba explained. "In 1920, women got the right to vote, which she participated in lobbying for that. And so I think that's what started her path to designing golf courses was that men said: 'Oh, no women allowed.'"
          In preparation for developing her first course, Hollins went on a factfinding mission to the UK. Armed with a camera and a small motion picture outfit, not only did she acquire knowledge about how to develop a golf course and an appreciation of architecture, she was also introduced to Ernest Jones, described as the "great golf teacher of the day" by Owen.