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Bettye Danoff, 88, cofounder of LPGA

BETTYE DANOFF

NEW YORK - Bettye Danoff, one of 13 founding members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which began as a hardy, poorly paid band of women who traveled the country for the chance to play the game, died Dec. 22 in McKinney, Texas. She was 88.

Her daughter Debbie Danoff Bell confirmed the death.

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Officially founded in 1950, the LPGA was begun by 13 women, including Ms. Danoff, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Patty Berg, and Alice Bauer.

If Ms. Danoff was somewhat less well known than they, that was partly because she curtailed her touring in the early 1960s, after her husband’s death left her with children to care for at home.

But before that, she joined her comrades in driving from tournament to tournament, convoy style, in their own cars. In each car, the driver kept a set of color-coded paddles - red, green, and yellow - that she could wave out the window to signal a stop for gas, food, or the bathroom.

Arriving at a course, they might encounter a sea of mud, or greens more brown than green. Before they teed off, they sometimes had to pull weeds. At night they shared motel rooms and sang popular songs together, sweetly off-key. It was “A League of Their Own’’ with woods and irons.

At 5 feet 2 inches and barely 100 pounds, Ms. Danoff, called Mighty Mite by her comrades, was known for her elegant, compact swing. Though she never won an LPGA tournament, she built an impressive amateur career before turning pro in 1949.

A native Texan, she won the women’s division of the Texas PGA Championship in 1945 and 1946 and the Texas Women’s Amateur in 1947 and 1948, among other victories.

In 1947 she defeated Zaharias in the Texas Women’s Open, ending Zaharias’s amateur winning streak of more than a dozen tournaments. In 1953 Ms. Danoff won the Hardscrabble Open, a non-LPGA women’s event in Fort Smith, Ark. In 1962, at the Austin Civitan Open in Austin, Texas, she scored her first hole-in-one and was awarded a case of beer for her achievement.

Betty Jane Mims was born in Dallas. (She added a final E to her name as a teenager.) She began playing golf at 6: Her family owned a driving range and nine-hole course, now Sunset Golf Club in Grand Prairie, Texas, and still in the family.

After an early marriage that ended in divorce, she married Clyde Walter Danoff, a physician, in 1949; he died in 1961. Besides her daughter Debbie, she leaves two other daughters, Kaye Bates and Janie Danoff; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.

Ms. Danoff had the singular distinction of being the first grandmother to play professional golf. Before that, she was one of the first women to bring her children along on the pro tour. The experience was a delight for all concerned, her daughter said Friday, except for one time.

Before the start of one tournament, Debbie Danoff was busy practicing putting with an extra putter Ms. Danoff brought along for that purpose. When she finished, she slipped it back into her mother’s golf bag and happily watched her tee off.

Ms. Danoff did not discover the extra putter - one more club than players were allowed to carry - until she reached the second hole. It cost her a two-stroke penalty.

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