IN RECOGNITION OF ITS HIGH STANDARD of achievement in golf literature, WONDER GIRL: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, written by Don Van Natta Jr., was named the recipient of the United States Golf Association’s Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for 2011.
“Babe Zaharias is among the most versatile and accomplished American athletes of all time; she rose from the Texas heartland to change the face of golf and the Olympics, breaking barriers on the playing fields and off,” said Robert Williams, director of the USGA Museum.
“Don Van Natta’s book is a deeply compelling account of Babe’s athleticism, courage and invincibility as she triumphed from the track to the tee and endured cancer to achieve a remarkable comeback victory at the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open.”
Comprehensively researched and beautifully written, Don Van Natta’s WONDER GIRL paints a vibrant portrait of early-20th-century America, while telling the extraordinary story of a heroic athlete who captured a nation’s heart. The brash, athletic and fearless Babe overcame biases of the time against female athletes to excel in golf, basketball, track and field, baseball, softball, tennis and bowling. She achieved All-American status in basketball and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
As a champion golfer, Babe won 10 major championships, including three U.S. Women’s Open titles, was a founding member of the LPGA, and in 1938 became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event. At the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with cancer, and was told by physicians that she would never return to competition. Fifteen months after major surgery, Babe won the 1954 U.S. Women's Open by 12 strokes.
“Winning this award is a huge honor for me, considering who the award is named after and all the past recipients,” added Van Natta. “Golf is such a great sport to cover. The game’s drama and emotion really lend themselves to the written word. I am humbled by the USGA’s recognition.”
Van Natta is a senior writer for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com, and spent 16 years as an investigative correspondent at The New York Times. He has been a member of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams and is the author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush.
Van Natta is donating a portion of his royalties from the sale of WONDER GIRL to the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation in Beaumont, Texas, which Babe and her husband, George Zaharias, established in the last months of her life to support cancer clinics and treatment centers.
The award will be presented to Van Natta on April 4 in Augusta, Ga., at the 40th Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner during the week of the Masters Tournament.
Celebrating WONDER GIRL by Don Van Natta Jr.