Talent Sustains Baugh Throughout Lengthy Career
By Ed Pierce, Managing Editor // March 27, 2013
Golf Professional Overcame Obstacles
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Laura Baugh was destined to earn a place in the spotlight playing golf and eventual induction into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
As a 3-year-old, she frequently accompanied her father Hale and brothers Hale Jr. and Beau as they took to the course at Rockledge Country Club.
She picked up the sport instantly and played every chance she could, even winning the National Pee Wee Golf title at the age of 3 and claiming the title four more times as a child.
At the age of 11, Laura’s parents divorced and she moved with the mother Sally to Long Beach, Calif.
There she continued to play every chance she had there and also whenever she traveled back to Brevard County in the summer to visit her father.
Her mother’s home in California was in a tough area and it created a desire in grow up fast and succeed quickly.
At 14, she won the Los Angeles Women’s City Golf Championships, repeated as champ the following year and also played as an amateur in the U.S Open.
She applied herself to her schoolwork almost as much as her golf game, skipping nearly two full grades, and graduating from high school at age 15.
Stanford University accepted her college application, but they didn’t have a women’s golf team and at that point, the teenager was wondering where her true path in life was headed.
In 1971, at the age of 16, Laura competed at the U.S Women’s Amateur Tournament at the Atlanta Country Club.
The event was a major breakthrough for Laura as she defeated Beth Barry in a 36-hole final match to win the tournament and in the process became the youngest champion in the tourney’s 76-year history to win up until then.
It thrust her onto the national stage and she skyrocketed to the front of the endorsement line thanks to her beauty, talent and smile.
The Los Angeles Times named her “Woman of the Year” and in 1972, Golf Digest hailed her as the “Most Beautiful Golfer.”
At 17 in 1973, she decided to turn professional yet had to wait six months to compete on the LPGA Tour because the minimum age to play as a pro then was 18.
While waiting to her pro card, she played in a few tournaments in Japan and then breezed through Qualification School for the LPGA.
In her first season, she claimed two second-place finishes. Playing in her first tour event at the Lady Tara Classic she tied for second and later that year was runner-up in Child & Family Services Open.
Her play was good enough to be voted as the LPGA’s Rookie of the Year.
An UltraBrite toothpaste television commercial further cemented her fame and it went on to win a CLIO award as one of the year’s top advertisements.
Her original plan was to play on the tour for five years and then retire to become a lawyer or a children’s dentist, then get married and have a family, but as the money from more ad campaigns like Ford Thunderbird automobiles, a sportswear commercial with Arnold Palmer and her own line of Izod clothing sold under the Laura Baugh name came up, she jettisoned that idea.
She shared the spotlight with other national golf celebrities when she competed in exhibitions with Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino and Sam Snead.
From 1973 to 1997, Laura finished second 1o times in LPGA tournament, nearly winning the Mayflower Classic in 1979 before falling to Hollis Stacy in a sudden-death playoff.
As her trophy case expanded and her national magazine covers piled up, there were a number of other acquisitions she made during her playing days.
She married and divorced three times and gave birth to seven children during that span, taking the kids along in a van in the summers as she played in events.
Somehow she also acquired a drinking problem as she felt alcohol could make everything seem more manageable.
Laura eventually overcame alcohol addiction through treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic and wrote about her struggles in the best-selling book “Out of the Rough.”
Her career came full circle after she left the LPGA following the1997 season.
She worked with CBS, ESPN covering tournaments and stared providing commentary for the Golf Channel in Orlando.
Now happily married for a fourth time, Laura sells real estate in Central Florida, enjoys being a mother and plays a little on the Legends Tour when her schedule permits.