May 28, 1949 - October 15, 2018
The Legends Tour Mourns Loss of LPGA Veteran Shelley Hamlin
by Lisa D. Mickey
LPGA and Legends Tour veteran Shelley Hamlin lost her battle with cancer Monday, Oct. 15, following a lengthy illness.
Hamlin, 69, a native of San Mateo, Calif., and a resident of Phoenix, died at home peacefully in the presence of family and friends.
The 25-year LPGA Tour member joined the LPGA in 1972, and won three times. Hamlin was inducted into the Legends Hall of Fame on Oct. 11, at French Lick Resort in conjunction with the Senior LPGA Championship. Fellow Legends Tour player Anne-Marie Palli accepted on Hamlin’s behalf.
“Shelley was very laid back, but also very competitive,” said Palli, of her longtime LPGA and Legends Tour colleague.
One year after joining the LPGA Tour, Hamlin tied for second at the 1973 U.S. Women’s Open and recorded her first LPGA victory at the 1978 Patty Berg Classic.
In July 1991, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and returned at the end of the LPGA season to post a tie for 26th at the Desert Inn LPGA International.
The following year, Hamlin won the LPGA’s 1992 Phar-Mor at Inverrary tournament seven months after undergoing a modified radical mastectomy. She earned her third career LPGA win at the 1993 Shop-Rite LPGA Classic.
“She was very proud to win after coming back from cancer,” added Palli.
Awarded the LPGA’s 1995 Heather Farr Perseverance Award by her peers, Hamlin was recognized for demonstrating “determination, perseverance and spirit in fulfilling her goals as a player.”
She also won the LPGA’s 1992 Bounceback Player of the Year Award, the 1992 William and Mousie Powell Award, and the Dr. DeDe Owens Spirit of Golf Award.
In addition, Hamlin served on the LPGA’s player board during her LPGA career, serving as player president in 1980-1981.
A co-founder of The Legends Tour, Hamlin won the 2002 Fidelity Investments Classic on the Legends Tour and posted six top-10 finishes. She also won two Legends Honors Division titles (age 63-over), with her most recent win coming in a playoff over Jan Stephenson at the 2017 Walgreens Charity Championship in Sun City West, Ariz.
Hamlin was The Legends Tour’s 2015 recipient of the Colleen Walker Spirit Award, which recognizes the player who best exhibits “tenacity, determination and a never-give-up attitude.”
“Even after the cancer came back, she was able to win again last year and she was so excited,” added Palli. “She said, ‘I’m in Stage 4 and there is no Stage 5.’ That last win meant a lot to Shelley.”
Hamlin’s amateur success included medalist honors at the 1965 U.S. Girls’ Junior and 1966 U.S. Women’s Amateur championships. She was runner-up to Catherine Lacoste at the 1969 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and was a four-time winner of the California Women’s Amateur.
In addition, Hamlin was a member of two winning United States Curtis Cup teams (1968, 1970) and two winning U.S. Women’s World Amateur teams (1966, 1968).
She won the 1971 AIAW National Collegiate Championship (preceding the NCAA Championship) while at Stanford University after qualifying for the event as an individual. She was later voted into Stanford’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Shelley was a competitor and golf was the vehicle to express that,” said Allison Finney, who also played college golf at Stanford University and followed Hamlin to the LPGA Tour. “She was just a fighter on the golf course. No part of her game was exceptional, but her whole game was.”
Finney enjoyed playing tennis and bowling with Hamlin for many years. Once, they were among a group of LPGA players who learned to fly fish at a fishing lodge out west.
“She appreciated experiences and friendships and loved learning about the fish, the lures and how to tie them,” Finney said. “She was very curious about everything.”
Palli, a native of the French Basque region, admitted that Hamlin, who could speak French and was a gourmet cook and wine connoisseur, taught her a few things about fine dining.
“She would say to me. ‘You eat too fast; taste your food,’” said Palli. “And she taught me to drink wine properly, telling me to ‘smell it and then take a sip.’ She really taught me how to be more French.”
Hamlin also was a stickler about golf course rules and etiquette and would remind her friends to take care of the course even if they were caught up in conversations in casual rounds.
“If I was talking and forgot to fix my ball mark, Shelley would be on my case and tell me that was not very professional,” laughed Palli. “I admit that sometimes I didn’t do it just to see what she would say.”
Hamlin’s friends enjoyed the lively dinner-table conversations with the Stanford political science major. The Californian began every day by reading the entire newspaper, including the bridge tips, surrounded by her beloved cats. Her bridge skills were reportedly on par with her skills in golf.
“She was a Renaissance person who cared about people, about golf and about the world,” said Finney. “She will be missed, that’s for sure.”
“I have lost my English teacher and my friend,” added Palli. “I will try to chew slowly and now, every time I fix a ball mark, I will think about Shelley.”