She combined feminine grace with the type of precision no golfer of her era was able to achieve. She amazed Henry Cotton with her ball-striking, and Glenna Collett Vare with her tenacity. Joyce Wethered, who later went by the more proper married name of Lady Heathcoat-Armory, was revered as the queen of British amateur golf. Bob Jones considered her to be the best golfer, man or woman, he had seen.
Wethered won the British Women’s Amateur Championship four times, the English Ladies’ Championship five times in a row, and was a leading force in the founding of the Curtis Cup.
Jones had the opportunity to play with Wethered from the back tees before the British Amateur in 1930. With a breeze blowing off the sea, Wethered did not miss a shot, half heartedly three-putted the 17th from 12 feet after the match was over and went around the Old Course in 75. It was as clean a round of golf as Jones had ever seen.
“I have not played golf with anyone, man or woman, amateur or professional, who made me feel so utterly outclassed,” said Jones. “It was not so much the score she made as the way she made it. It was impossible to expect that Miss Wethered would ever miss a shot-and she never did.”
"It was truly a wonderful moment. I had wanted to win at St. Andrews so badly and, Glenna being such a grand opponent, the match had everything a good match ought to."
Cotton played in an exhibition with Wethered after she married Sir John Heathcoat-Armory in 1937. She hit the ball 240 yards off the tee and could play low-flying shots with the mashie that exhibited brilliant touch. Some felt that at her best Wethered could play No. 4 or No. 5 on the British Walker Cup team, and Cotton agreed. “In my time, no golfer has stood out so far ahead of his or her contemporaries as Lady Heathcoat-Armory,” said Cotton. “I do not think a golf ball has ever been hit, except perhaps by Harry Vardon, with such a straight flight by any other person.”
Wethered established her reputation in this country by twice thwarting the efforts of Collett in the British Ladies’ Amateur. Their first match occurred at Troon in 1925, just after Vare had won her second U.S. Women’s Amateur and the French Open Championship. “The match anticipated between her and myself was worked up to such a pitch beforehand that, when the day came, one of two things was almost bound to happen. Either we should rise to the occasion or one of us would fall under the strain of it.”
Joyce Wethered toured the U.S. in 1935, playing 53 exhibition matches including some with Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen.
It was Wethered who rose-making four birdies in 15 holes-and Collett who fell, by a score of 4 and 3. Wethered went on to defeat Cecil Leitch in the final for her third British Women’s Amateur title. Four years later, Wethered and Collett met again in the final at St. Andrews. Wethered was coming out of a three-year retirement, but Collett was coming off her fourth of five U.S. Women’s Amateur titles. With an outward nine of 34, Collett went 5 up. At the 12th, she had a 3-footer to go 6 up and missed. Slowly the holes began to come back, and at the lunch break, Collett was only 2 up. Bernard Darwin wrote that the general impression of the British people was, “It’s all right now. You’ll see. Joyce will win comfortably.”
The 3 and 1 defeat of Collett indicates that Wethered did, indeed, win comfortably. They met again in the inaugural Curtis Cup, with the police clearing the road home for the two heroines, and Wethered returned home to England, where the only competition she played was the Worplesdon mixed foursomes, an event she won eight times with seven different partners.