When you’re a female athlete, you need to work twice as hard to prove your worth as a player; make that ten times if you are a female golfer. Here are some women who’ve left an indelible mark on a predominantly ‘gentlemanly’ sport.
“Golf is a game of coordination, rhythm and grace; women have these to a high degree.” ~ Babe Didrikson Zaharias
They were given limited access to courses, completely barred from entering a few. They were even kept out of the club bars, and they couldn’t even dream of being the club captain. Like every other fundamental right, women had to fight their way to yield a golf club as well; and this to have happened with a game whose first exclusive course was commissioned by a woman.
That woman was Mary, Queen of Scots, and the course? St. Andrews, of course; aptly considered to be the home of golf. Women have certainly come a long way since Her Royal Highness committed the alleged debauchery of playing (celebrating?) golf just after the death of her husband.
Cut to the present day with playing conditions for women golfers having improved by leaps and bounds, completely disregarding golfing upmanship. Having broken through the proverbial golfing glass ceiling, women no longer have a point to prove, and the following ladies will tell you why.
Greatest Female Golfers Ever
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Let’s just keep golf aside for a while, and spare a moment to take in the magnanimity of this woman’s achievements. An Olympic medalist for track and field events, an All-American basketball player, an excellent skater, diver and bowler … Mildred Ella ‘Babe’ Didrikson Zaharias was one extraordinary ‘babe’, if there ever was one. Being denied amateur status, she went on to participate in the Los Angeles Open, a men’s PGA tournament in 1938, setting a standard of sorts. After obtaining amateur status in 1942, she went on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1946 and became the first American to win the British Ladies Amateur, a year later. She gained professional status in the same year and became a founding member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias had won a total of 82 golf tournaments before she succumbed to cancer in 1956.
One of the best amateur golfers of the early twentieth century, Edith Cummings was born into a wealthy Chicago family in 1899. Her biggest achievement remains winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1923. In August 1924, Edith appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the first sportswoman to have achieved that feat. In 1924, Edith won the Women’s Western Amateur. She started playing golf after graduating from school, an achievement in itself, considering the fact that golf was an elitist, male-dominated sport.
The Edith Cummings Munson Golf Award is instituted in her honor, and is given to a deserving college-level female golfer with a good academic record.
Kathy Whitworth tops the list of most tournament wins with 88. For 17 years, beginning in 1962, she won at least one tournament each year, a one-of-its-kind feat in the world of women’s golf. Another outstanding achievement of hers happened in 1981 when Kathy became the first woman to touch the one million dollars worth of career earnings on the LPGA Tour. The statistics don’t end here – Kathy was LPGA Player of the Year seven times between 1966 and 1973. Kathy’s putting skills were legendary. The only grouse about an otherwise stellar career was that she didn’t win a U.S. Women’s Open.
Kathy Whitworth is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Golf Digest and Golf Magazine heralded Mary Kathryn Wright as the best woman golfer of all time, and rightfully so. When golfing legend, Ben Hogan declared her swing to be the best he’d ever seen, you wouldn’t dare question her technique. Mickey stands just behind Kathy Whitworth with 82 tournament wins in her illustrious career. She won 5 tour events in 1960, and had a tournament named after her the following year; no prizes for guessing who won the Mickey Wright Invitational!
Leg injuries cut short Mickey’s career prematurely in 1969; however, she still remains a recreational golfer.
Nicknamed ‘Dynamite’, Patricia Berg was a founding member and the first president of the LPGA. In 1946, she became the winner of the first U.S. Women’s Open Championship. She went on to win 15 major championships in her career, a record number for women’s golf. This win, however, came after Patty spent time serving in the Second World War as a Marine. Patty began playing golf at the age of 13 and won her first city championship three years later, under the guidance of her coach, Bud Wilkinson.
The LPGA instituted the Patty Berg Award for the most prolific female golfer of the year.
Long hits, razor-sharp accuracy and a shy demeanor characterize Annika Sörenstam, arguably the best female golfer ever, with only Mickey Wright to dispute her claim to that position. Annika has to her credit 90 international tournament wins, 72 LPGA titles, which include 10 major tournaments, and her career earnings crossed a whopping 22 million dollars – outstanding as per women’s golfing standards. Every milestone in Annika’s career turned a record setter, each better than the last. She was invited to play in the Bank of America Colonial golf tournament in 2003, and became the first woman to do so after Babe Zaharias, disgruntling the other participants of the men-only PGA tournament.
Annika retired from mainstream golf in 2008, and is now an entrepreneur and a mother.
A certified child prodigy, Michelle Wie is golf’s glamor girl. Michelle was born in Hawaii to immigrants from South Korea, and started playing golf since she was four. She soon began to demolish records. Aged 11, she won the Hawaii State Women’s Stroke-Play Championship and the Jennie K. Wilson Women’s Invitational, considered to be the most prestigious women’s tournament in Hawaii. She also became the youngest player of her time to qualify for an LPGA tournament. Her 2 professional wins include the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2009 and the Canadian Women’s Open in 2010. It was just before her 16th birthday that she turned professional, which was followed by a string of lucrative endorsement deals that made her a cool 20 million dollars.
With her reported run-ins with the authorities and her alleged arrogance, Michelle is still the darling of the endorsement world.
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak was the first South Korean golfer to have left a lasting impression on the world of golf. She was just 20 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open, making her the youngest player to do so. It didn’t end there. Se Ri Pak went on to win 3 LPGA Championships and the Women’s British Open as well. Her exemplary performances led to her being almost inducted in the Golf Hall of Fame in 2005, but wasn’t, as she was yet to complete the minimum career duration prior to being inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Se Ri Pak entered the Hall of Fame in 2007, and became the youngest living entrant to have done so.
Karrie Webb was a force to reckon with, in the late nineties. An Australian, Karrie is the winner of 38 LPGA tournaments and 7 majors. In 1999, she managed to bag a spot in the top 10 sixteen times, which remains an LPGA record. Often considered to be the only player to rival the formidable Annika Sörenstam, she frequently proved herself to be the better of the two. Karrie won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2000 and 2001 and the British Women’s Open in 2002. The # season saw a dip in Karrie’s form, but she bounced back in 2006 with 5 tournament wins.
She became a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010 not only for her golfing exploits, but for her contributions to community welfare as well.
This cheerful, young Taiwanese golfer won her first major when she was just 19, and her fans were not surprised when she became the number one women’s player at age 22. Yani was a child prodigy as well, and came to live in the United States to hone her golfing skills at the David Leadbetter academy. Yani stormed into the spotlight when she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship by defeating strong contender Michelle Wie.
The year 2011 belonged to Yani as she became the first golfer to win five majors. Playing golf was a way of life for these women. For the women golfers belonging to the previous century, it was, perhaps, a deliberate show of defiance to the uptight, all-man image that the game of golf had. It is still not dramatically different from what it was, with its archetypical golf etiquette intact. But what even the toughest of golf cynics and famous golfers will admit is that as with all sports, the presence of women makes it interesting, if not better.