Women's History Month: Harriot Curtis' Contributions To Golf & Community - MASSGOLF

Harriot Curtis Had a competitive spirit and a bigger heart

The Curtis Cup and Mass Golf’s Curtis Bowl have a very similar name. It’s no coincidence. Both events are named after two incredible Bostonian sisters who left their mark on the game from the beginning. 

Harriot Curtis, left, poses with her sister Margaret Curtis.

Harriot and her sister Margaret were the 9th and 10th children of Civil War hero Colonel Greeley S. Curtis and his wife Harriot. They were prosperous Bostonians who summered in Manchester-by-the-Sea. 

Their Sharksmouth seaside estate was near the grounds of Essex County Club, where the girls picked up the game of golf after an introduction from their cousin Laurence Curtis, second president of the USGA. Margaret Curtis was recognized previously in MassGolfer Magazine, and prior years celebrating Women’s History Month. While her golf game never seemed to subside during her years of service in World War I and her championship trophies seemed to come more frequently, there is a second piece to the Curtis Cup puzzle, Harriot Curtis.

In 1897, Essex hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, the first of five USGA events it has hosted, including the 1938 Curtis Cup (more on that later). Just three years after taking up the game, Harriot won the 1896 women’s club championship at age 13 and was soon competing in national events.

Harriot was co-medalist in the 1904 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Merion Cricket Club but lost in the first round. Two years later, she redeemed herself by defeating Mary B. Adams in the finals to win the title at Newton’s Brae Burn Country Club in front of an estimated gallery of 2,000 spectators. A year later, she met Margaret in the final at the Midlothian Country Club near Chicago. Margaret won the title and went on to win the championship twice more. In 1908, Harriot shot the lowest stroke-play score in U.S. Women’s Amateur history but lost in the second round.

In 1920, Harriot captured the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship and played a little competitive golf to follow, but her legacy would continue to grow.

Curtis left her mark on the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts, serving a presidential term on the board from 1914 to 1915 and posthumously being inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame in 2014 alongside Margaret. She even drove a ball through a picture window at The Country Club during the WGAM’s 50th anniversary celebration. 

The Curtis’ legacy carries on through the Curtis Cup matches. These matches stimulate rivalry among the women golfers of other countries. In 1905, the sisters visited England to play in the British Amateur Championship and represented Boston in the Women’s Inter-City matches, which sparked further interest in this competition format. Both sisters felt strongly about a women’s international competition, so to further the formalization of such, they donated a silver cup as a  prize for the event. In 1932, the USGA agreed to sanction such tournament names as the Curtis Cup Match, just 10 years after the men’s Walker Cup launched.

In 1954, friends of Harriot and Margaret announced the initiation of a tournament in their honor and presented “The Curtis Bowl” at the WGAM Annual Meeting. The trophy was a replica of the Curtis Cup, and each year, teams of two female amateurs compete in a scotch/foursomes format.

Outside of their contribution to golf, the sisters were successful in service. In 1909, they co-founded a health clinic in Boston. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Harriot was appointed director of the Associated Charities in Boston, and she worked at the Center for French Wounded and the Home Service Division of Civilian Relief.

During the war, Harriot helped raise funds and medical supplies for the Red Cross. Following the war, she became the dean of women at Hampton Institute, a college for African-American students in Richmond, Virginia, from 1927-31. Their service to the poor, the wounded, and the oppressed proves that they were champions off the course as well.

A view of the Sharksmouth Estate in Manchester-By-The-Sea.

About Mass Golf

Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport.

With a community made up of over 120,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.

At the forefront of junior development, Mass Golf is proud to offer programming to youth in the state through First Tee Massachusetts and subsidized rounds of golf by way of Youth on Course.

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