Helen Sigel Wilson
Philadelphia Country Club
Wilson with children Siggie
and Kirk after winning the
1959 Whitemarsh Cup.
THERE ISN’T NEARLY ENOUGH SPACE allocated in this issue of the Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine to thoroughly chronicle the remark- able career of Helen Sigel Wilson. Take a look at Jim Finegan’s book, “A Centennial Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia.” The legendary scribe needed 22 pages to detail Wilson’s rightful place in the Philadelphia golf pantheon.
Page restrictions aside, the ensuing copy details the exploits of the Association’s
newest Hall of Fame member and first-ever female honoree. Wilson is also the first
Philadelphia Country Club (PCC) representative to be inducted.
Wilson’s career spanned parts of six decades. She won more than 350 titles. That’s not
a typo. Her first Major victory in a Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia tournament
came in 1939 (Boyle Cup/Farnum Cup). Her last in 1981 (Senior Championship).
The victory list is mesmerizing. Wilson won a record 12 Women’s Golf Association of
Philadelphia (WGAP) Match Play Championships over four decades. Her final triumph
came in 1972 when she defeated her greatest rival and fellow legend Dorothy Porter.
Wilson was 54 years of age.
Wilson won 12 Mary Thayer Farnum Cups (the WGAP stroke play championship); 12
Silver Cross Awards; five Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association titles; two Women’s
Eastern Amateur crowns; the Western Amateur and was twice runner-up in the U.S.
Women’s Amateur Championship. She twice represented the United States on the Curtis
Cup team (1950, 1966) and was also the non-playing captain in 1978.
Wilson was known for her ability to strike a ball. She was typically longer than most
foes she encountered. Her Achilles’ heel, like many, was her putting. In a remarkable
recap of the 1972 Women’s Match Play Championship, the one in which she defeated
Porter for the record 12th victory, Wilson putted with her eyes closed after a suggestion
from assistant PCC pro Joe Data. She was still battling the “yips” and closing the eyes, as
the theory goes, relieves some of the tension associated with the flatstick. She proceeded
to roll in a five-and-a-half footer to clinch the match.
In a quote from Finegan’s book, Wilson considered the 1978 Curtis Cup captaincy her
“greatest thrill in golf.” The U.S. defeated the Great Britain and Ireland team, 12–6, that year.
“I shed a few tears and I never shed tears when I was playing,” said Wilson. “I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been captain of other teams but not for my country. It’s an experience I’ll
never have again.”
Hall of Fame
Golf Association of Philadelphia