Unheralded Canadian Golf Legend Rosemary Thompson Passes Away

Rosemary Thompson, 1992 USGA Senior Women's Amateur Champion (Photo: USGA)

One of the most prolific golfers to be born in Canada ended her marvelous run earlier this month. Rosemary Kate Thompson, a member of the Cornwall (Ontario) Sports Hall of Fame since 1968, in the city where she grew up, has passed away in New Mexico at the age of 76.

Her death went largely unnoticed in the nation of her birth, a real shame considering all she accomplished in her chosen sport. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find much attention given to her golf exploits in Canadian media through the years.

Born in 1943 as Rosemary Phillips, she was part of an extended family of accomplished golfers. The Phillips name is well-known in the city of her birth.

Rosemary found golf success early in life, on the fairways of the venerable Cornwall Golf & Country Club, where she took up the game at age 7. It was there where she became the junior champion in 1956. The next year she would finish as the runner-up at the Quebec Junior’s Girls’ Championship. She would represent that province at national championships three times.

At the club level, Rosemary would take the trophy at Cornwall Club Championship in 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1968.

With all that to her credit, she was really just getting started. In her life she would eventually claim more than 200 amateur golf victories.

After a false start in Canadian post-secondary education at Western University, divinity seemed to guide Rosemary to the University of New Mexico, a state that would be a cornerstone of her life.

She played golf at UNM from 1964-1966, and she would eventually be enshrined in the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame (1994). She joined a foursome of female golf honourees of the highest caliber. Her name sits proudly beside those of Rosie Jones, Nancy Lopez, and all-time LPGA Tour winner (88 wins), Kathy Whitworth.

On top of being honoured in Cornwall and New Mexico, Rosemary would also be recognized in the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame after spending a chapter of her life in Amarillo in the mid 1970’s.

In that short period, she left her mark on the city and state’s golf scene. Records indicate she won the Amarillo City Championship five times and a secured victory at the Texas State Amateur in a year, 1976, that would see her be dominant on the amateur scene. That year she hoisted trophies at the Texas Women’s Publinx, Women’s West Texas Championship (her third of four in a row), her third Amarillo City Championship, and her third Club Championship at Amarillo Country Club. It was also the year when she became a citizen of the United States.

She left Texas having been named the West Texas Athlete of the Year in 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1978.

Back To Albuquerque

In 1978 Rosemary and her husband Ralph re-located to Albuquerque where they ran a successful valve company. It was here that her next great run of golf would take place, both as an amateur and senior player.

Living in Four Hills and playing out of the Four Hills Country Club, Rosemary would win 27 club championships at the course, with 37 club titles won in total at various courses during her lifetime.

He name appears as the Albuquerque Women’s City Champion a total of ten times and she also claimed wins at the Southwestern Golf Association Championship (11x) and the New Mexico Senior Women’s Championships 14 times…in a row. The latter are both records.

The 5-time New Mexico State amateur champion would also be named the Sun Country PGA Amateur of the year twice (an award that included both men and women). She won 21 Sun Country Amateur Golf Championships over her career.

Thompson would set some 18 course records, tally more than a dozen aces, and set the course record at her home club, a 63, at the age of 50, in 1992.

That same year, in her first year of eligibility, Rosemary set the all-time stroke play scoring record (220) to win the United States Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in Tucson, Arizona. She is one of just four Canadian-born players to win that National title, joining Marlene Stewart-Streit, and Gayle Borthwick, to be followed recently by Judith Kyrinis.

Thompson called the USGA victory the biggest thrill of her golf life.

She also happened to win the New Mexico State Senior Amateur title that same year, the only player to ever accomplish that double win.

A breast cancer survivor, no cause of death was given for Thompson, although it was noted that her passing was unexpected. Her husband had passed away in 2009.

No memorial services have been planned but it has been requested that people donate to breast cancer organizations or the USGA in her honour.

And, hopefully, in her passing, Rosemary Thompson will finally receive her due recognition as one of the most winning golfers to ever come from Canada.

According to those close to her, her love of the game was endless, and the admiration for her abilities and playing record should be equally so.

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– Scott MacLeod, Associate Publisher, Flagstick.com 

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2 Comments on Unheralded Canadian Golf Legend Rosemary Thompson Passes Away

  1. Great article.
    A few years ago I asked someone on the HOF Committee why Rosemary Thompson was not in the Hall of Fame. The answer shocked me as the person said she left Canada at a young age and all her accomplishments were in the U.S.! That would disqualify most of the current members.

    • Sadly, that is a very narrow perspective of the accomplishments by golfers who come from Canada. Doing great things in your own country is just part of their story. And yes, you are correct, so many of the “big” wins for many of the Hall of Fame members actually occurred outside of Canada so that is a poor argument.

      Thankfully, it looks like a nomination is going to be made. We will see how far it gets.

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