Golfing Through Generations: A Tale of my Grandmother’s Most Memorable Win
Most of the early memories I have with my grandmother involve golf. Family holidays spent in clubhouses, sneaking in putting practice on the seventh hole below her home, the endless collection of golf clubs, trophies and pictures decorating said home, weekends spent in the Coachella Valley and summers in Park City – always playing golf.
But above all, the stories I have heard that capture a lifetime of adventures she and my grandfather have embarked on together while enjoying the game will stick with me forever.
My grandmother, Margaret Knappenberger, has spent most her life mastering the game of golf. It started about 70 years ago in high school, when her good friend, and future pro, Betty Graham first introduced her to the sport. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to run junior golf programs, volunteer on club boards, run tournaments and grow the game. Even today, at 87 years young, she is the chairman of the rules committee for Redlands CC’s women’s club.
My grandmother attributes golf as one of the things that has kept her and my grandfather happily married for 64 years and counting. It is something they have always done together, a common interest that has kept their passion for life, and for each other, strong.
“As a young couple, after we got married, we would play occasionally as a couple, but we started playing together more when your grandfather was in the Navy and your aunt and uncle were young,” my grandmother explained to me. “There was a golf course at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, where he worked as a resident physician, that we played often. Once we moved to California it was easy, we joined Redlands CC and have been avid golfers there ever since.”
Together, my grandparents have traveled the world playing golf, raised three avid-golfer children, influenced grandchildren, including myself, to love the game and are even getting the opportunity to see their first great-grandchild learn to play.
Both are accomplished golfers with countless tournament wins under their belts. My mother and grandmother together share a combined eight club championships at Redlands CC, and both happened to make hole-in-ones during their respective competitions! A story they still love to share around the dinner table.
But there is one tournament, one epic golf story, which has always stood out.
In both 1979 and 1980 my grandmother was invited to play in the women’s division of the King Hassan II Trophy Golf Tournament, hosted by the late King of Morocco at The Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat – and in 1980 she took the win.
“The first year we traveled there with Dave Stockton and his wife Kathy. Dave was just a young pro at the time,” she recalls.
My grandfather was also there to compete, and along with Stockton, they had the opportunity to stay, play and dine with a few other young pros at the ProAm, including John Cook, a fellow SoCal golfer, and Bernard Langer from Germany.
The second year, when my grandmother won the tournament, they attended with Billy Casper, who had forged a great friendship with the late King Hassan in the early 1970s over a shared passion for the game of golf.
“The whole time we were treated like royalty, as guests of the King, and closely watched over by his guards,” says my grandmother. “There were decedent banquet meals and the bazaars were filled with such beautiful things.”
“One night at the palace, while we sat and enjoyed an extravagant meal, all the king’s horseman rode in, dressed exquisitely in traditional uniforms, it was breathtaking.”
But attending this grand event was just the beginning for my grandmother. After a competitive women’s tournament, she rose to victory to take the 1980 title and win one spectacular prize designed by the king himself. My grandmother was awarded a stunning, hand-made gold bracelet filled with precious stones and fit for a queen. It embodies the word royalty.
As she tells it, after King Hassan II added a women’s division to the tournament, his daughter, Princess Lalla Meryem, told her father that a woman would need a particularly special prize, something truly dazzling. And dazzling it is!
“I remember being at the award ceremony and thinking, hey, with this bracelet I’m now independently wealthy!” recalls my grandma. “Who needs a job anyways?”
I’ve grown up cherishing the wonderful golf stories my grandparents have told me, and with any luck golf will lead me to even a small fraction of the adventures they embarked on. One thing I know for sure, my grandmother winning the King’s tournament in Morocco is a story I will tell for generations to come.