It is only fitting that Jean Miller will introduce Martha Jones Lang tomorrow night at The Country Club of Birmingham as the latest recipient of the Joe H. King Award. After all, Miller received this prestigious award last year and her and Lang have done so much for women's golf across the state and the country.
King, who died in 2008, was a key person within the USGA, Southern Golf Association and AGA. In 1993, the AGA created an award in King's name to be given periodically to amateur golfers in Alabama for their contributions to golf.
To date, there have been 15 recipients: King, Ann Upchurch, Elbert Jemison, Charley Boswell, Buddy Walker, Sam Farlow, Frank Campbell, Bob Lowry, Jackie Cummings, Art Gleason, Fred Stephens, Bee McWane Reid, Sadie Roberts, Buford McCarty and Jean Miller.
And now Lang, who is one of the most storied amateur golfers from Alabama ever to play the game, joins them.
"Martha is one of the most humble and unassuming people you could ever have the pleasure of meeting," Miller said. "Joe would be amazingly pleased to know Martha is being so recognized. She has meant so much to golf statewide, across the country and internationally."
She is also a highly respected administrator and in 2011 she began a two-year term as the chairman of the United States Golf Association's Women's Committee, having served as vice chairman the previous two years. This is the top volunteer role in women's amateur golf in the country and her term recently ended, but she will still be involved within the USGA as the immediate past chairwoman.
"I did not know Joe King well, but heard so much about him," Lang said. "Taking a look at the other people who have received the Joe H. King Award really humbles me. That list says a lot and it is a great honor for me to have my name added to their midst."
A little history is in order...
She was born in Decatur, and grew up playing the game at Decatur Country Club.
Her parents, Bessie and Soney Jones, got her started in the game and she won the State Junior four years in a row. She played in the U.S. Girls Junior three times, losing to eventual winner Hollis Stacy in the semifinals one year.
She then went on to play on the first women's golf team at the University of Alabama from 1971 to 1975. In the AIAW, the precursor to the NCAA Tournament, she placed in the top four for three straight years, but never won it.
She then started work as an accountant for Shell Oil and moved to Houston. She transferred to Chicago, continuing to play a few national amateur tournaments. Her crowning moment competitively was her win in the 1988 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. She came close in the U.S. Amateur finishing runner-up to Sara LeBrun Ingram in 1991. This led to her selection for the 1992 Curtis Cup team, which she also captained in 1996.
After a move to Louisiana, she won an extraordinary 10 consecutive State Amateur titles! Which, combined with a victory each in Alabama and Texas, means she has won state titles in three states. She also won the Louisiana State Mid-Amateur seven times and the Louisiana State Senior three times.
In 2006, she and her husband, Ken, moved back to the state to Birmingham. They play golf at Shoal Creek.
A career amateur, she is integrally involved in the USGA. The 14-member Women's Committee helps run all the USGA women's championships and picks the teams for both the Curtis Cup and the World Amateur. She served on this committee since 1999.
"I've always loved working with the USGA," Lang said. "Though I never aspired to the role, I was thrilled to be named chairman. I love the game of golf and all that it stands for.
"I particularly enjoy amateur golf and have always been partial to it. I take great pride in the Women's Amateur and the Curtis Cup."
She has played on, captained and help select the team for this biannual match against a team from Great Britain and Ireland.
"I plan to stay involved and remain in touch with the amateur game, but my travel schedule won't be quite as full."
She certainly racked up frequent flyer miles the last two years as she was present at all USGA women's championships the last two years, as well as officiating rules at the men's Open and Amateur.
"I'm fortunate that I get to go to all these great venues and championships, but when I come back home to Shoal Creek I still say 'wow.' It spoils you."
She still competes in the U.S. Senior Amateur, losing in the semifinals as recently as 2004. And in recent years she has won the Alabama Golf Association's Women's Senior Amateur multiple times.
She has worked in a rules capacity at over 30 USGA national championships, including the Women's Open nearly half those times.
And, along the way, she played in seven U.S. Opens, making two cuts, and she was just 16 when she played in her first one!
And she was inducted into the Birmingham Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Strikes me, and I've written this before, that a place in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame should be under close consideration for this lady who has played, officiated and administered women's golf at the very highest level.
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