Tuesday, January 31, 2012


A team of their own

Debra Jensen De Hart | Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 10:00 am
Once upon a time, before women were more welcomed into professional sports, and way before Title 9 changed things for female athletes, there were a few barnstorming professional female teams known around the globe.
One of those was the Texas Cowgirls basketball team whose recruits played between 1949-1977.
The team was organized by the legendary Dempsey Hovland of Beloit/Rockton area, who recruited for the team from the Midwest.
Among them was a player who would become a local resident named Evelyn R. "Casey" Patch. Evelyn died on Jan. 2 at the age of 78. Her obituary ran in the Beloit Daily News this past week and in the write-up it stated that Evelyn had played guard and center for the Cowgirls during the years of 1956-1959.
In those days, before she married, her name was Evelyn Cummins. A picture found online and published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner of Ogden, Utah, dated Jan. 27, 1959, shows a picture of Evelyn and teammate Barbara Legette in action. Evelyn is driving the ball in, apparently in hopes of making a lay-up at the San Francisco Cow Palace as the women played against San Francisco prep coaches and sports writers.
In 1996, Beloit freelance writer Pat Casucci wrote a piece on the Cowgirls for the BDN publication Legends of Sports.
In it, she interviews several women who later married and moved to the Stateline Area. One of those players was Evelyn.
"I've never regretted my decision to play basketball, even though my parents were a little reluctant to see me, their ‘baby' leave home. I'd do the same thing again if I had the opportunity. In fact, I think it was meant to be," Evelyn said at the time.
She was 21 and had been employed by the Pure Oil Company in Casey, Ill. back then.
"Sports was part of my life and I loved playing basketball in high school Girl's Athletic Association games," she said in the interview.
In 1958 and 1959, the Cowgirls toured with the world famous Globetrotters. The girls would play the first game prior to the main event. The Cowgirls were the first barnstorming team to play men's teams, usually winning 70 percent of the games. They demonstrated showmanship, comedy and family entertainment while perfecting their craft.
The team traveled and played about seven months out of the year and then returned home to work or go to school.
Evelyn was offered a chance and lived out her dream and in so doing helped pave the way for other female athletes to excel and not be afraid to compete.
After the playing season was over in 1959, however, she ended her professional basketball career and married Charles A. Patch. After moving to the area, she continued her love for sports through bowling and golfing. She was a member of the Rockton Pioneer League and a 50-year member of the Beloit Women's Bowling Association. She also was inducted into the 1984 Bowling Hall of Fame.
But the fame of the Texas Cowgirls lives on, a team of women athletes who played across the country and around the world, pioneers in their own right.

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