This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
Edith Betty Kernot (1910-1984), golfer, was born on 26 July 1910 at Geelong, Victoria, third child of Walter Charles Kernot, chemist, and his wife Edith Latham, née Hobday. Both parents were locally born; Walter came from a well-established Geelong family, his uncle, Charles Kernot, having founded a successful chemist’s and stationery business. Betty was educated at the Hermitage, Geelong. Showing an early talent for golf, she joined the Geelong Golf Club in 1923 and was attracted to the increasingly competitive side of a sport still largely regarded as a pastime for women of wealth and leisure. By her mid-twenties she was playing her best golf, securing her standing as an elite competitor and displaying a rare grace of swing and great accuracy.
Triumphant in the Victorian Champion of Champions title in 1935 and 1936, Kernot then won the Australian Ladies’ Amateur Championship (1937, 1938) and, with E. M. Hutton, the Australian Ladies’ Foursomes Championship (1937). Described that year by the Sun News-Pictorial as `a brilliant little machine, hitting her shots with plenty of devil, and scoring par golf’, she matched visiting British (1935) and American (1936) players in her long game, if not always near the green. She was selected for Tasman Cup teams in 1937 and 1938. By 1939 she was on a handicap of four and played in an exhibition match against the flamboyant Texan `Babe’ Didrickson. Known for her immaculate appearance, Kernot found the advice given to her by the big hitter disquieting: `Betty, you’ve got to take off your girdle and let her rip’.
When the ALAC resumed in 1946 after World War II, Kernot was still playing good golf and in 1947 was runner-up in the championship. Ranked number one for Royal Melbourne Golf Club and later for the South Western District Golf Association in pennant tournaments, she won championships at several clubs: Geelong (thirteen times), Royal Melbourne (four times), Metropolitan and Barwon Heads (both six times). In 1955 she set a course record at Geelong. She represented Victoria eleven times.
Increasingly recognised for leadership qualities, Kernot was Victorian delegate to the Australian Ladies’ Golf Union (1939, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1957), and manager (1949) and captain (1950-52) of the Tasman Cup teams. A committee member (1934-67), life member (1939), and president (1952-56) of the Geelong Golf Club, she also served as president (1962) and patron (1963) of the SWDGA, which, in 1971, named a scratch foursome event for district players in her honour. In 1966 she was involved, through the Victorian Ladies Golf Association, in launching a camp for juniors at the Angelsea club.
While devoted to her sport, Betty Kernot was also an active member of the Victorian Ladies’ Benevolent Association and the Victorian Red Cross Society. A revered and popular figure, she continued to play until her death on 19 October 1984 at Geelong; she was cremated. The Betty Kernot memorial trophy was established by the Geelong Golf Club in her honour.
J. E. Senyard, 'Kernot, Edith Betty (Betty) (1910–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kernot-edith-betty-betty-12735/text22971, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 24 May 2015.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007