The five Seattle University golfers each had a club in their hands as they bent over and posed for a photo for the school newspaper, the Spectator. What was different was one wore a skirt.
"Four Hits and a Miss" was the headline that accompanied this image, introducing Patty Lesser as the newest member of the men's golf team and alerting everyone that times had changed. Surrounding her were teammates Jerry Mathews and Dave Edgerton on one side, and Bob Codd and John Harbottle on the other.
On April 4, 1952, Lesser made her debut with the Chieftains, sharing in a 14-1 victory over Western Washington at Inglewood Country Club. She initially played out of the No. 4 position, before assuming the top spot in five of the 13 matches held that spring.
An introductory practice round had come much earlier, when Codd and Harbottle picked her up and they played together at West Seattle Golf Course. Lesser finished a stroke ahead of Codd and five behind the other guy, who had her attention from the beginning.
"When I got home, I couldn't remember his name; I played with John Bottle Cap or something," she said of her future husband. "It was, 'I hope he asks me out.' "
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 22nd in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Lesser became an athletic trailblazer after her father, a former Army colonel turned photographer, first approached the University of Washington, and then SU, asking if his daughter could play on the men's golf team. The answer was no at one place, yes at the other.
Soon she was joined by Janet Hopps, who played for SU's 1954 men's tennis team and became its No. 1 player before competing internationally, and succeeded by Ruth Jessen, an eventual LPGA golfer who joined the men's team in 1956.
"That was a huge step: Nobody else in the U.S. did that," Hopps pointed out. "No other school had two women on men's teams in the NCAA at the same time."
Lesser had plenty of national credentials to make this opportunity happen. She won the 1950 U.S. Junior Girls championship and, once at SU, she became the 1955 U.S. Women's Amateur champ.
"She was the national junior champion, and it was a little imposing until I met," John Harbottle said. "But nobody's more down to earth than she is."
Lesser won the 1953 Women's Collegiate Championship and finished as runner-up in 1954. With her college career over and the LPGA in its formative stages, she passed up a chance at the pros to raise a family and remained an amateur. She made an impact on a lot of people.
"Patty and I were good friends," Hopps said. "I started playing golf because of her."
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