Friday, November 15, 2013

HerStory: Susan Basolo Kennedy

She would have been sixty-six this month, I know because she was one month older than I was, and we had both started school when we were five.  The difference is that she was a genius, whose focus on golf and her schooling out-shined all of us who played along side her.  She matured long before most of her classmates and golf companions, while I lagged behind in maturity and confidence.  She was left handed and played golf right handed, making me think I should have learned to play golf left handed so I'd be strong like she was.

I was fifty before I realized how positively she impacted my life, and that was long after she beat me in every golf tournament in which we ever played.  My Oklahoma Jr. Golf years and tournaments aligned with Susan's every entry. We both began our junior state tournaments in 1959 at Southern Hills, and ended our junior years at Southern Hills.  I held my own as an eleven year old in the nine hole division, but by age fourteen the pressure was on, and the skill level skyrocketed.  I was no match for her fury and focus.  She rolled over most of us in the those years.

Champion Susan Basolo
Yet, in reflection I think she was my mother's nemesis, not mine.  Mother coached me and believed in me and more than once said, "Letty, this year I just know you will beat Susan." I would leave my mother exasperated when I'd yell back, "Mom, she's the best golfer in the state.  I'm not like her." 

I admired Susan, and feared her.  I never once thought I could beat her, although I'm sure I'm dreamed of victory. I knew her talents, her strengths, and her vision. She was truly "one" with the game of golf; I was one with "emotional" upheavals which were most detrimental to a steady game of golf. Even as a teenager I studied people and asked myself, "How can she do that? What gives her the focus that I don't have?..."  Indirectly, I learned and would one day apply to my life, the meaning of words, such as, tenacity and perseverance, by observing her actions on the golf course and throughout her college career.

Studying psychology in college one day at LSU I experienced an epiphany   IQ. Susan had a very high IQ, and I knew one day would reach her goal to become a doctor.  Years passed and two golfers began making headlines...Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods.  It was in their eyes that I once again saw Susan Basolo...beady focus, relaxed determination, confidence, refined skills that took them to the top, and I guessed a high IQ.  

An old newspaper clipping from the Tulsa Tribune Sports Writer, Bill Harper, stated that Susan's golf pro at Muskogee Country Club was Gordon Jones, who also taught LPGA early member Beth Stone.  Harper described Jones as "psychological type teacher."  Susan said at the time, "He's the type teacher that makes you believe that you can beat anybody."  

Mack Boswell wrote often of Susan's exploits on the golf course.  "Susan Basolo, 15 year old Muskogee girl who has been making an impressive record in women's golf competition this year, captured the fourth annual Mabel Hotz Jr. Girls Golf tournament in Miami,Oklahoma shooting an 82. Susan, who weighs 105 and stands 5-2 1/2" has made an impressive record in other meets this year.  She won second place in the state high school invitational meet in Norman.  (Yes, Oklahoma enjoyed a decade of high school girls golf before dropping it in 1964.)  She was third in a big LPGA tournament at Muskogee, and was consolation runner-up in the state women's tournament in Duncan." She went on to win the Oklahoma Jr. Girls tournament in 1964, 1965.

The newspaper dubbed her "the small blaster from Muskogee."  Small in size only, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from OU, graduated from medical school and went on to be a successful dermatologist.  I played against her one more time in 1988 when we both attempted to qualify for the USGA Mid-Am.  She qualified, I was an alternate, but I overcame a barrier that day.  I knew that I, too, had something inside of me that day...conviction.  When I set my sights to accomplish a goal I could do it.  Thank you Susan for showing me what conviction, confidence, and focus looked like.  I'm just sorry that I never had a chance to tell you this.

Susan Basolo Kennedy died July 9, 2013 at her home in Tucson, Az.  She would have been 66 on Nov. 10, 2013.   


  1. What a nice tribute and what a loss.

  2. Thank you so much for posting. Susan was incredible! So intelligent and driven. And she was deeply loved. - Becky

  3. Wonderful story, Letty. Golf is still a sport in which we compete to the best of our ability against each other; but in the end, learn from and respect each other.