Kathy Whitworth, most successful golfer in history, dies at 83
Kathy Whitworth set a benchmark in golf that no one has ever touched, be it Sam Snead or Tiger Woods, Mickey Wright or Annika Sorenstam. His 88 wins are the most by any player on a single professional tour.
Whitworth, whose victories on the LPGA Tour spanned nearly a quarter-century and became the first woman to win $1 million on the LPGA, died on Christmas Eve, her longtime partner said. date. She was 83 years old.
Bettye Odle did not reveal the cause of death, saying only that Whitworth died suddenly on Saturday evening while celebrating with family and friends.
“Kathy left it worthy of how she lived her life – to love, laugh and make memories,” Odle said in a statement released by the LPGA Tour.
Whitworth won the first of her 88 titles at the Kelly Girls Open in July 1962. She won six majors during her career and broke Mickey Wright’s record of 82 career wins when Whitworth captured the Lady Michelob at the summer of 1982.
His final victory came in 1985 at the United Virginia Bank Classic.
“Winning never got old,” Whitworth once said.
All that was missing from her career was the US Women’s Open, the biggest of the major women’s tournaments. After being the first woman to top $1 million in career earnings in 1981, she said, « I would have traded being the first to make a million to win the Open, but that was a consolation that took away some of the sting of not winning.”
Whitworth was the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1965 and 1967 when she easily beat Wimbledon singles champion Billie Jean King. Whitworth was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1982.
She was the LPGA Player of the Year seven times in eight years (1966-1973). She won the Vare Trophy seven times for the lowest average and was the top silver winner in eight seasons.
But she was identified by a number – 88.
Snead was credited with a record 82 PGA Tour wins, a total that Woods has since matched. Wright won 82 times on the LPGA Tour, while Sorenstam won 72 when she retired after the 2006 season at age 36.
« I think Mickey had the best swing and was probably the greatest golfer, » Betsy Rawls told Golf Digest. « But Kathy was the best player in the game I’ve ever seen. »
Whitworth was born in Monahans, a small town in West Texas, and learned to golf in New Mexico. She started at age 15 in Jal, New Mexico, on the nine-hole course built for the employees of El Paso Natural Gas.
She was soon a two-time New Mexico State Amateur winner. After briefly attending college in Odessa, Texas, she turned professional at age 19 and joined the LPGA Tour in December 1958.
« I was very lucky because I knew what I wanted to do, » Whitworth told Golf Digest. « Golf grabbed me by the throat. I can’t tell you how much I loved it. I thought everyone knew what they wanted to do when they were 15.
Wright had the most aesthetically pleasing swing. Whitworth was all about grinding and winning.
Whitworth won eight times in 1963 and 1965, and she had 11 wins in 1968. In none of those years did she win more than $50,000. All these years later, the total prize money of the LPGA Tour for 2023 will exceed $100 million.
Whitworth continued to run junior clinics and remain active in the game.
« I don’t think about the legacy of 88 tournaments, » she once said. « I did it because I wanted to win, not to set a record or a goal that no one else could beat. I’m not a big weirdo. I was just lucky to have so many What I’ve done being a better player doesn’t make me a better person.
« When people ask me how I would like to be remembered, I think if people remember me, that will be good enough. »
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Doug Ferguson, Associated Press