Written By: Greg Johnson
Betty Richart, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member and a devoted golf leader with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM), armed with legendary zeal, energy and positivity, today Aug. 19, 2023, breaks 100 – 100 years of living and giving.
“I want others to get to 100 and see how much they can do along the way,” she said in a phone interview from her longtime home in Ann Arbor.
“I have difficulty walking, even with a crutch. My knees are bad, but I’m not going to just sit on my butt. That doesn’t get me or anybody else anywhere. I’m going to stay positive and encourage everybody to play golf and give back to golf. It’s a wonderful game, and it has been my life.”
Richart’s daughter Betsy French and sons John and Willard Richart are celebrating the milestone birthday with a party for family and close friends.
“She isn’t making a big deal about 100, she prefers to look forward, but we want to celebrate her and all she means to her family and friends,” Betsy said.
John called her an inspiration.
“She still has her marbles and we still value her advice and counsel, she is the hub of the family,” he said. “We get together as a family each year over the Fourth of July at Crystal Lake and we realize she has turned us all into big supporters of golf in Michigan and throughout the country.”
John said part of the reason she has reached 100 is her special spirit.
“She looks at the positive, does not like the negative, sees the positive in everyone she meets,” he said. “She is a great lesson for all of us – live life in a positive, positive way. When she talks with old friends she doesn’t want to hear about ailments and getting old. She says she doesn’t want to hear an organ recital. She wants to talk about what’s new, or who won the latest golf tournament.”
Betty said she isn’t going to wish life would go on because that is selfish.
“I don’t think that way,” she said. “I believe in sharing. I used to tell volunteers how important it is that they share their ideas. It’s amazing how out of little comments come big ideas. I owe so much to golf and the people who play golf and volunteer in golf are the people I like to be with. I tell volunteers they don’t have to be great players of the game, just love the game and try to get better, and they can also just stay involved and pass on this wonderful sport.”
Betty said just a few days ago she received a phone call from a relative who in the 1974 she helped gain entry to the U.S Junior Amateur Championship by writing a letter to Margaret Lovell of Detroit, then a USGA junior golf leader and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member like Betty.
“He (Jim Stewart) called to tell me he still has that letter on his wall,” Betty said. “That was so sweet that he cared to call and tell me that. It’s amazing how people remember.”
Richart, who has six grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, grew up on a golf course in her native Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Her father, John Wesley Goldthorp, an attorney and banker, spearheaded an effort in 1929 to build Woodcrest Country Club, now known as The Legacy Club at Woodcrest.
“It was during the Depression so mom and her four siblings grew up playing the game and helping run things on the course,” Betsy said. “Everybody in the family played and were successful players. They were actually known in the area and by the media then as “The Golfing Goldthorpes.” Golf really has been her life and she still stays up on what is going on in golf.”
First Betty was a player, including playing four years on the boys’ golf team in high school, and one year on the men’s team at Duke University before she met her husband-to-be, F.E. (Bill) Richart, and transferred to the University of Illinois.
“Not many girls played when I was growing up,” she said of her junior golf days. “I don’t remember the first time I broke 100. My sister, I think beat me to it. She (Pat Stewart) is 97. She was quite a good player for a number of years.”
Over the years Betty, who also worked in banking, won club, city and regional titles in multiple states and played in college tournaments and other events competing with legends of the game like Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias and Louise Suggs.
Later, she started officiating golf tournaments for the USGA and GAM, volunteered in course rating and served on the USGA Women’s Committee for 17 years, including three as chairperson. A Barton Hills Country Club member for 60 years, she also served as chairperson for the U.S. Women’s Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in 1989 and was instrumental in Barton Hills hosting the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1998 and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2008.
She also volunteered outside of the game, working with the Ann Arbor YMCA, Washtenaw United Way and Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
“I met so many wonderful people playing golf and volunteering and then being a rules official and became proficient in the rules, too,” she said. “I had played all those years but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.”
In 1999, the USGA bestowed its prestigious Ike Grainger Award to Richart for 25 years of service to the organization. In Michigan, she has been honored by multiple groups and associations. In 1992, she received the Golf Association of Michigan’s Distinguished Service Award, became an Honorary Governor of the GAM in 1992 and the GAM Women’s Championship trophy is named in her honor.
In 2002 she was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame where the GAM’s Jeanne Meyers dubbed her the grand lady of golf, and in 2014, she was selected as one of three women to be honored at the Michigan Women’s Golf Association Legacy Celebration. The others were Shirley Spork, a Detroit native and one of the LPGA’s original founders, and Mary Fossum, the first women’s golf coach at Michigan State University.
Betty, of course, said there was no need to rehash all that old stuff.
“Just tell people they will be better for being involved in the game of golf in some way,” she said.
She remains interested in all things golf and tunes into golf telecasts of all types.
“I love watching them all play, hoping for that putt to fall,” she said. “There’s hope for everybody in golf that way. It’s a game that can lift you up with one good putt when all about you seems to be going wrong. I say never give up, in golf or in life. I lift my head up and shout it’s going to be a great day. I may be on my way out, but I will never give up hope.”