Honoring a pioneer
Kathy Whitworth is by no means a household name, but to peers and fans she is known as a pioneer in women’s golf. Although she played in an era after the true “trailblazers” like Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Patty Berg, Whitworth set the standards for women’s golf even higher and raised the bar for those that would follow in her footsteps.
Fifty years ago, when woods were still wood and the LPGA was just 10 years old, Kathy Whitworth turned pro at the age of 19. In the first tournament she placed, she took home just $33. But in her second year on the Tour, she earned $5,000, although money wasn’t a motivating factor for her. She was driven by her passion for the game and her desire to help women’s golf grow during a time when women athletes weren’t taken very seriously – in any sport, at any level.
Whitworth’s accomplishments over a 32-year career are more than impressive. She was the first woman to earn $1 million on the Tour, and she still holds the record for the most wins – 88 – on both the men’s and the women’s U.S. tours. Whitworth won at least one LPGA tournament every year from 1962 to 1978, which is the longest streak in LPGA history. She was a seven-time LPGA player of the year, captain of the first two U.S. Solheim Cup teams, is an LPGA Hall-of-Famer – and the list goes on.
Since her retirement, Whitworth has stayed involved in the game – teaching it, playing it and speaking about it. And since 1999, she has hosted the Kathy Whitworth Invitational Junior Girls Golf Championship, which attracts the top junior girls from all parts of the world.
I smiled when I read that Whitworth was selected by PING and the American Junior Golf Association as the Captain of the 2013 U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup Team. As someone who has spent almost her whole life fighting to help women golfers gain greater recognition, I hope this opportunity gives her the worldwide recognition that she so deserves.