Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Lee Purvis was named UK Sport’s “pinnacle athlete” in 1983
Sports journalist John McColgan’s new book The 90-Year-Old, The Old, The Great, The Legend: How Sports Journalism Broke Down the Cultural Barriers of 21st Century Britain, takes a look at the incredible stories behind some of Britain’s most successful sportsperson from the last century.
It starts with the story of little-known 90-year-old Lee Purvis, affectionately nicknamed ‘Lee The Great’ because she was a former US Women’s Amateur Golf Champion, who retired from professional golf to pursue acting, working on stage and on film.
She is now the subject of this week’s Sport Magazine.
She made a name for herself as the all-time Ryder Cup points scorer and player for the US Women’s Golf Association.
The book tells the story of how she broke down the “gender taboo” that made women’s golf a private club game and effectively second-class, far from the behemoths of golf’s fraternity – Wie and Bird and Woods – also rowing across the pond to dominate the LPGA tour.
What happens next? We spoke to John – writer and author of the book – about the fascinating life of Lee Purvis.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Lee the Great retired from professional golf to pursue acting
“It’s great to feature the personal stories of women in the game,” he told BBC Sport.
“Women in golf did not have the same access and support that men had – the pay, facilities, learning and organising – and so they often had to be realistic about themselves.
“Lee – who was 67 when she won the champion amateur title at the age of 37 in 1973 – achieved many big milestones in the game, including the highest-ever professional match play placing, the highest ever ranking in amateur match play, the highest ever professional performance for an American in stroke play and got the highest-ever final-day finish at the legendary three-day matchplay sectional qualifying tournament held at Milngavie Links Golf Course in Scotland in 1988.
“These extraordinary achievements were certainly a major encouragement to her close friend and contemporary, the late tennis star Pam Shriver, for example.
“Until Lee, most women playing the game had done so reluctantly, or were the main beneficiaries of playing in the club system which actually excluded them.
“Her all-round success also did much to challenge the all-male golf establishment.”
Lee the Great spoke to BBC Sport
What next? (more from Lee in the magazine)
“I recently had the privilege of interviewing three top players for the Commonwealth Games. Both men and women revealed they did not play golf competitively at university. But Lee never stopped playing and her early life and experiences opened many doors that I think would not have been opened otherwise.
“Just like she did on the golf course, I believe she continues to play to this day because the game brings a sense of achievement that doesn’t always mean winning. It’s a game where anyone can beat anyone.
“Being a Hall of Famer is something she would always dream about. It took me six years, but at the age of 75 I was inducted in the same year as Lee.”
That is the best thing about the golf book, because it gave me the chance to meet and get to know a very special person.
@JohnMCColgan I’ve had several former colleagues for the interview mentioned in the book… Its my absolute pleasure to talk to them… https://t.co/5oiJpnU3Qj — Matchroom Sport Magazine (@BBCMSP) October 25, 2017
@johnmccolgan Got to interview one of the legends of golf last year – this is just one of many things I’ve learned, learned and written about her in our book https://t.co/NgWD5gajCq — Matchroom Sport Magazine (@BBCMSP) October 25, 2017