One daughter played at Mississippi State, and one is now following in her mother’s footsteps at Louisiana State University. Is she torn? No indeed. She’s loving every second of it.
Like many other women of golf, Cissye Gallagher comes from a long line of people who love the game, and she is paying that forward for her children. Her grandfather, who learned to play during the depression when he went to live with his uncle in Arkansas, taught her father. Her grandfather and Cissye’s grandmother, now 99, played well into their elder years.
Her dad won the Mississippi State Amateur event in 1971, her husband played on the PGA Tour, brother-in-law played on Tour, sister-in-law played on the LPGA Tour, all of her children play. The list goes on.
And of course, she has her own trophy cabinet, boasting Mississippi Women’s Golf Association State Amateur titles and numerous other plaques and pieces of etched crystal to acknowledge her accomplishments.
The opportunity to represent the state of Mississippi on the U.S. team when she was right out of college was one of her most memorable golf moments. She could, however, compare that time to when she went to the World University Games or to winning her 12th MWGA State Amateur title. That’s a dozen.
“My grandparents were huge influences on me,” Cissye said. “I once begged my grandmother to play in a tournament with me when she was 75, and she did, even though she wasn’t feeling well at all. I had to depend on her for two putts, and she made them both.”
After that round, Cissye’s grandmother had to have an emergency appendectomy. While Cissye says she felt bad for begging her to play, it was her grandmother’s love of the game and her granddaughter that pushed her to venture out anyway … and help the score.
As Jim Gallagher’s wife, she knows what it’s like to actually live and breathe golf. There was a lot of golf family responsibility. She loved following Jim on Tour. Some of her fondest memories include taking other players’ children to play golf after having taken her own children to daycare because they were too young to go.
“They would sometimes get bored when their dads were playing practice rounds before tournaments,” she said. “We would have so much fun. They couldn’t drive themselves to other courses to play yet, so they couldn’t go play without me.”
Playing golf is a definitely a family event for the Gallaghers. Sundays were special days with church in the mornings and family golf outings immediately following. “Golf has been great for us,” she said. “We live 150 yards from our church in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, and the PGA Tour was like living in a small town too. There were birthday parties on Tour, and parents always made those times special for the children.”
Cissye was elected president of the PGA Tour Wives Association, and while in office, she organized the premier of “Tin Cup” in Louisville and helped raised $1 million for charity. While the Tour was funding the larger charities, it gave Cissye a lot of pride to have been able to help several small charities through the PGA Tour Wives Association.
With several holes in one, Cissye feels her favorite was at Hickory Hills, one that helped her win one of the State Amateur events. And still, the best hole in one is her family – Mary Langdon who played at Mississippi State; Kathleen, now playing at LSU; son Thomas, a senior majoring in engineering at Mississippi State; and the youngest, Elizabeth, a cheerleader in high school.
“Golf bonded us over the years,” she said. “We had golf together, and I’m very thankful for that. Jim and I both played in national golf championships. Those are really great memories for both of us.”
Cissye and Jim don’t play in tournaments together, however. She has to draw the line somewhere. “He is so good,” she said. “I feel like I can’t do what I need to do to help him out.”
They just continue to follow each other, 18 holes at a time. This family of golfers will also follow her grandparents’ legacy of golf across a lifetime, crediting the sport with a bond that runs generations deep.
The importance of good instruction
Cissye credits Reed Hughes with teaching her the importance of instruction. At only 13 and after one year of coaching with Hughes, Cissye won the Mississippi Junior Championship. Now, she credits VJ Trolio and Tim Yelverton for coaching her as an adult.
“I never thought I could get better in my 40s, but I am doing better,” she said. “And it’s due to good instruction.”
Hughes said, “A golf teacher is only as good as his student, and she was good. She was having fun beating all the boys as well as girls. She was fun to watch, and I still love to see her and her girls play. Her dad was also a natural, and her mother was an angel.”
Honoring women for breast cancer awareness month
Family is important to Cissye, who lost her mother when she was only 25 years old to cancer. “Mom died after I had just gotten married,” she said. “I was only 13 when she got sick, and her sister died at 34 of breast cancer.”
Cissye made a life-changing and life-confirming decision. She got tested, and tested positive, for the BRCA 1 gene, which the National Cancer Institute says is a human gene that, when present, can more likely lead to cancer. She had a hysterectomy and a mastectomy. And after that, she won her 12th State Amateur event.
“I showed my girls that you can do something if you need to in order to save your own life,” Cissye said. “I have so much more peace of mind. Before I got the surgeries, I felt like I was gambling.”
Cissye never thought she would play golf with the success she had before after her surgeries, but that 12th win proved her wrong. Those surgeries haven’t slowed her down at all. “I’ve done everything I can to help myself and my family,” she said.