19-time women's city champ remembered for competitiveness

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 8, 2018 8:05 pm

QUINCY -- Mary Winters remembers what it was like to win her first women's city golf championship in the summer of 1986 at the age of 27.

It was extra special because she dethroned 19-time champion Betty Ann Robinson, who was 67.

"I grew up watching her, and she won everything," Winters said. "Every year, every time. There was never any question if she would win. I just felt like I was going to be along for the ride. She would always say ‘good shot,' and after I won, she was so gracious. She was always the number one cheerleader for younger players like me.

"But you never forgot that in the end, she still wanted to beat us."

Robinson, 99, died Friday morning in her Quincy home. She will be remembered as arguably the best female golfer in city history.

She played in her first city championship in the summer of 1935 after she graduated from high school. She won her first title in 1940, and she captured her last title in 1985 at age 66. She also won the Quincy Country Club Tournament 24 times and the Spring Lake Country Club Tournament eight times. One year, she won all three tournaments. She also won the Illinois State Senior Tournament once.

Organizers of the women's city tournament changed the name of the championship trophy to the Betty Ann Champions Trophy in 2003. She was inducted into the Quincy Golf Hall of Fame in 2005.

Nan Ryan battled Robinson for the city title dozens of times. The 11-time city champion won her first tournament in 1952 and her last in 1983. No other woman has won more than six.

"Oh, my, I played so much golf with her," Ryan said. "She was always fun to play with and so knowledgeable about the game. She was just a wonderful woman."

Beth Musholt, Robinson's daughter, still lives in Quincy. She remembers how badly her mother wanted to win on the golf course.

"She and Nan were big competitors, and they both thought so much of each other," she said. "Then you had golfers like Mary (a three-time champion) and Kathy Schlepphorst (a five-time champion). She watched them grow up, and she was so happy to see them beat her."

Robinson enjoyed teaching the game to her three daughters -- Beth, Hetty and Jane.

"We all had to play as children, whether we wanted to or not," Musholt said. "My father died when I was four months old, so it was the mother and the three girls on the golf course. Golf was very, very important to her. She was very proud of her accomplishments, and she loved the spotlight."

Musholt said her mother played until she had a knee replaced at age 87.

Ryan remembered Robinson didn't like to have anybody on the green when she was putting, and "everybody respected that."

"I also remember she would come out to the course and start rubbing her knuckles, and she would complain about her arthritis," Ryan added. "I always knew if she was complaining about her arthritis that I was going to be in trouble."

Winters recalled how skilled Robinson was at putting.

"When I played with her, I just assumed she would make it no matter where she was," she said.

Above all, however, everybody agreed what made Robinson a great player was her fierce competitiveness. Musholt will never forget one story that illustrated it during a round at Quincy Country Club.

"Connie Robertson was Mother's best friend, and they grew up together and they were very competitive at golf," Musholt said. "I think it was No. 13, and Connie pulled out something like an 8-iron. Mom told her, ‘Don't use that club. That's the wrong club for where the pin is.'

"Well, Connie didn't listen to her, and she hit the shot and gets a hole-in-one. She's jumping up and down and celebrating, and Mother looked at her and said, "I don't care if you had a hole-in-one, that's still the wrong club.'

"Her son-in-law told that story at Connie's funeral, and Mother just beamed."

Visitation for Robinson will be from 4-7 p.m. Friday at Hansen-Spear Funeral Home. Services will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Church of St. Peter. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.