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From Tee to Victory: The Remarkable Journey of Women in Golf

Babe Didrikson Zaharias | won her last major golf tournament
Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Golf, a sport associated with prestige and exclusivity, has historically been dominated by men. However, golf has evolved to include women players who are every bit as talented and tenacious as their male counterparts - if not more.

Trailblazers of their own right, women started out in golf with skirts and hoops; they have surpassed numerous challenges and barriers throughout the decades, and continue to pave the way on a journey that is not short of remarkable.

This article explores some history, challenges, achievements, and impact of women in golf, and provides insight into the future prospects of women in the sport.

Memorable First Moments of Women in Golf

The rich history of women in golf can be traced back to a small group of pioneering women who dared to challenge societal norms to play the game. Women golfers have since faced numerous challenges, a large portion of it clichéd assumptions.

Women’s foray into golf began with Mary, Queen of Scots, who is said to have played golf in the 16th century. Scotland happens to be the birthplace of golf, and was the home of the very first women’s golf club.

In the early days, dedicated golf clubs and organizations were instrumental in formalizing and facilitating the enthusiasm of women in golf. The first golf organization formed exclusively for women was known as the Ladies Golf Union (LGU), founded by Issette Pearson, in 1893. 

The LGU took on the task of organizing golf tournaments for women - the Women’s Amateur Championship was the first ever women’s golf tournament overseen by the LGU. This event paved the way for future competitions and inspired more women across continents to pursue golf.

But, even as women's golf gained traction, challenges faced by women players persisted, including rampant discrimination, lack of opportunities, as well as pay disparity between professional male and female players.

Despite this, women continued to persevere - in 1944, the Women's Professional Golf Association (WPGA) was established in America, providing a platform for professional women golfers to compete at the highest level. This organization later merged with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 1952, thus solidifying the presence of women in competitive golf.

Today, there are five major championships in women’s golf, forming a professional league just for the ladies. These tournaments not only showcase the incredible talent of women golfers but also heralds a significant shift in the perception of women in golf.

Laura Davies

Dame Laura Davies is just one of the many groundbreaking women golfers in recent history. The accomplished Davies boasts a string of accolades, among them as the winner of the challenging US Women’s Open in 1987, and the first woman to play on the men’s senior tour in Europe. 

Laura Davis | Golf Legend| Golf Women | Holding Gof Club

Image from Sead Dedovic on Tennis World USA

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in golf in the 1950s when she became the first African-American woman to compete on the LPGA Tour. Gibson, a former tennis player, displayed undeniable talent and perseverance as she transitioned to a new sport. Her courage would inspire future generations of minority golfers.

Althea Gibson | Golf Course | First Black Golf Women PlayerImage from Anya Alvarez on Wbur

Kathy Whitworth

American professional Kathy Whitworth, a record-breaking winner of LPGA Tour titles and the first woman in golf to become a millionaire in 1981, revealed, “I don’t think about the legacy of 88 tournaments [...] I wanted to win, not to set a record or a goal that no one else could surpass.”

Her staggering wins on the LPGA Tour crown Whitworth as one of the greatest golfers of all time, surpassing men’s professional golfers like Tiger Woods and Sam Snead, both of whom are record holders themselves.

Kathy Whitworth | Women Golf Legend | Holding PGA Tour Trophy

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels 

Mickey Wright

Winner of 82 LPGA Tour titles and 13-time major champion, Mickey Wright was said to have “the finest swing ever [seen in] man or woman,” according to fellow professional golfers. Her iconic golf swing was redolent with elegance and power. A great swing - Wright advised - lies in starting off with a wide swing arc, and then knocking off the tee on the takeaway.

Se Ri Pak

The worldwide development of women’s golf similarly produced stellar talents in Asia, such as with Se Ri Pak. The highlight of Pak’s career includes a rightful place in the World Golf Hall of Fame, in addition to 25 tour titles - Pak was the first Korean to win a major championship: the 1998 LPGA Championship.

Pak’s wins inspired many more Asian women golfers, as she opened doors for countless others and demonstrated the global reach of the game. 

Se Ri Pak | women golf legend | holding a golf ball in hand

Image from LPGA

Ariya Jutanugarn

Former World No.1 Ariya Jutanugarn, the first Thai native to win the 15-year old LPGA Championship in Thailand, regularly motivates youngsters on the importance of determination and not giving up. The pride of the nation even has a biopic, rated 6.6/10 on IMDB, which follows her golf journey from struggling child prodigy working up to the grand LPGA tour - her steady progress is a source of inspiration to keep the faith in oneself.

Annika Sörenstam

Glittering golfer Annika Sörenstam of Sweden, is known as the one of the best women golfers of all time: she won a total of 72 LPGA Tour titles, 10 major championships, and was the first woman - in 58 years - to compete in a PGA Tour event. 

Sörenstam’s induction as World Golf Hall of Fame member and president of the International Golf Federation (IGF) not only showcased her exceptional talent but also challenged gender stereotypes and opened doors for future opportunities for women in golf.

 Annika Sörenstam | women golf legend | swinging a golf club | wearing a green shirt and cap

Image from Luke Norris on Sports Casting

 Lorena Ochoa

Young Lorena Ochoa sent shockwaves rippling through the golf world when she retired as World No.1. Ochoa is the first Mexican golfer to win a Major championship, later ticking off four consecutive LPGA Tour titles in her golf roster - these days Ochoa prefers a less stressful life than competitive golf, and spends her time with family and pursues philanthropic efforts instead.

Women's golf has produced some of the most talented and accomplished players in the world, most of whom seem to charge forward and continually break stereotypes.

These remarkable achievements by professional women golfers simultaneously elevated the sport and inspired new generations of players.

The Future of Women in Golf: Initiatives and Advancements

Golf Clubs Women

A bright future awaits for women in golf as the sport does away with stuffy traditions. Already, several initiatives and advancements aimed at promoting gender equality and inclusivity in the sport are in place, with a final goal of opening up the game.

Major championships and international tournaments handled by women’s golf organizations, like the LPGA Tour, have played a crucial role in promoting golf and nurturing budding young talent. At the same time, partnerships between the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the LPGA - the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program - introduced the tee to thousands of young girls, encouraging them to pursue their passion for golf, and setting a global stage to showcase their skills.

Old yet established organizations advocating for women in golf are also getting a facelift to keep up with the times. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (the Club), founded in May 1754, is a recognized authority and presides over numerous golfing events. The development of women’s golf incentivized greater responsibility, resulting in a bout of reorganization within the Club and the formation of new charters. The Club came to be known as “The R&A” - it introduced a host of initiatives and campaigns to nudge more women and girls into playing golf.

Off the green, you have Elisa Gaudet, president of a golf consulting firm and founder of Women’s Golf Day (WGD); WGD is a global movement that aims to incorporate relaxed and fun ways for women to enjoy golf. 

Are You Game for Golf?
women golfer | wearing white top and skort | carring a golf club bag

Photo by prostooleh on Freepik

Resources for Women Interested in Getting Started

The multitude of inspiring golf stories out there is likely to get you to pick up a putter, but before getting started in golf, first browse online platforms like Women & Golf and Women's Golf Journal that offer valuable tips, tutorials, articles specifically tailored to women golfers. What’s more, these sites have an added selection of golf apparel and accessories for women.

For a younger audience, check out golf clubs that offer women's clinics and beginner-friendly programs to introduce new players to the game. This is similar to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program, an excellent initiative that provides young girls with access to golf instruction, mentorship, and a supportive community.

These resources can help you improve your game, learn about equipment, and stay up to date with the latest trends in women's golf.

Remeber, from the early pioneers who broke barriers to the current generation of talented players, women have made their mark in golf. The passion, skill, and perseverance women have shown has indeed paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse golfing community.

As we celebrate the achievements and impact of women in golf, it is essential to recognize the ongoing efforts to further advance gender equality in the sport. By supporting and promoting women's golf, we can ensure a bright future where women continue to excel and inspire on the fairways and greens.



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