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Hidden Champions: The History of Women in Golf

Babe Zaharias | female golfer | prize trophy

Image from BelleCurvePodcast

Since the beginning, women have continuously pushed the boundaries and shattered glass ceilings in the world of golf. The journey of women in golf is nothing short of awe-inspiring - a testament to their tenacity, strength, and zeal for the game.

From the early struggles to break into the sport, to the remarkable milestones they have achieved, the past and current women in golf pave the way for future women players to shine just as bright, if not more.

Historic Milestones
Golf club 1894 photograph

Image from Scottish Golf History 

The history of women's golf dates back to the mid-19th century when women first started playing the sport. Back then, women faced numerous restrictions and were not allowed to play on the same courses as men. 

It was in 1867 when the first women's golf club, the Ladies' Golf Club of St. Andrews, was established. The golf club would kickstart women’s active participation in golf, and laid the foundation for instrumental future development.

Slowly, the women's golf movement gained traction in the UK. In 1894, Issette Pearson became the first woman to win a major golf tournament, the British Ladies Amateur Championship. This victory challenged societal norms and expectations placed on women, and further highlighted the potential and skill of women in golf.

Fast forward to 1950, Babe Zaharias became the first woman to compete in a men's PGA Tour event. Her exceptional performance not only earned her well-deserved respect from her male counterparts but also inspired countless women to pursue their dreams in golf.

Influential Players

Golf is not an easy sport even for the sports enthusiast. However, throughout history, there have been famed women in golf who have defied societal norms and displayed talent and relentless passion for the game. These women have spurred other players to break standards and strive for victory in golf.

Ann Gregory

Ann Gregory | female golfer | long skirt

Image source IndyStar via USGA Museum  Archives 

As the first Black woman who competed in the USGA championship, Ann Gregory was a champion who was used to defying the odds. Gregory started playing golf as a pastime, overcoming prejudice, racism, and more, to win many tournaments in the US - this at a time when rules prevented Black people from playing. 

Nancy Lopez

Nancy Lopez | female golfer | smiling | white sun visor

Image from Golf Digest 

Nancy Lopez, an American golfer who burst onto the scene in the late 1970s, had exceptional skills that not only won her numerous tournaments and awards but also brought a new wave of fans to the sport. Lopez had an infectious personality and a winning smile - a defining feature whenever she stepped onto the golf course.

Se Ri Pak

Se Ri Pak | female South Korean golfer | white fitted polo

Image from Golf Digest 

South Korean professional golfer Se Ri Pak achieved victory in the 1998 US Women's Open, making her the youngest champion in the tournament's history at 20 years old. Pak’s epic win also opened the doors for a new generation of South Korean golfers, three of whom are the top five players in the world.

Michelle Wie 

Image from SFGate

The modern face of women’s golf, Michelle Wie West, was the youngest player to ever qualify for a USGA amateur championship at the tender age of 10 years old. Despite facing criticism and pressure throughout her professional career, Wie West defied the odds and went on to win multiple LPGA Tour events, including the 2014 US Women's Open Championship. 

Annika Sörenstam

Annika Sörenstam is a Swedish golfer who dominated the sport in the early 2000s. Sörenstam was at the top of her game and demonstrated remarkable finesse in golf, winning 10 major championships and 72 LPGA Tour victories on top of other achievements. Sörenstam shattered the notion that women couldn't compete at the highest level. 

Challenges Overcome

Women in golf have faced their fair share of challenges such as the glaring lack of support and recognition compared to their male counterparts. Additionally,  women's tournaments received less media coverage and sponsorship for years, making it difficult for talented female golfers to gain exposure and build a professional career.

However, these challenges were met head-on through resilience and determination.

The formation of organizations such as the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the Women's Golf Association of America (WGAA) has provided a platform for women to showcase their skills and compete at the highest level. 

The LPGA is a notable association that has played a pivotal role in supporting women in golf. Since its establishment, the LPGA has been promoting and developing women's golf, organizing tournaments, and providing educational and career development opportunities - the LPGA was a driving force behind the growth of women's golf. 

Meanwhile, the WGAA focuses on empowering women through golf. The WGAA provides scholarships, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities for women in the golf industry, paving the way for future generations of female golfers.

Gradually, media coverage and corporate support towards women’s golf has increased, helping to elevate the status of the sport to global standards and create equal opportunities for female players.

Significant Tournaments
Betty Jameson is seen in action | U.S. Women's Open Championships | Spokane Country Club in Spokane, Wa. | Sept. 7, 1946.

Image from AP Photo 

The introduction of professional tours, increased prize money, and improved training facilities have provided women with more opportunities to pursue a career in golf. 

Several key tournaments have served as milestones in the journey of women in golf. The US Women's Open, first held in 1946, is one of the most prestigious tournaments in women's golf. Recognized by the LPGA, this tournament has witnessed and showcased the extraordinary talent of female golfers, providing a platform for them to compete on a global stage.

A tournament that celebrates the rich history and tradition of golf and highlights the skill and competitiveness of its players is the Women's British Open, which has been held since 1976.

Today, women's golf is a thriving and competitive sport, attracting a global audience and inspiring young girls to take up the game. 

The impact of women in golf extends beyond the confines of the fairways.

The presence of women in golf has shattered gender stereotypes, while their successes and achievements of female golfers have popularized the sport. This has not only created a more inclusive and diverse golfing community but has also contributed to the overall growth and development of golf.

Looking ahead, women are poised to excel in the golf world. With increased support from specialized associations, improved opportunities for fair play, and a growing international fan base, more women will be motivated to compete at the highest level; in turn inspiring more young girls to take up the game.

We can expect to witness remarkable milestones and achievements that will further solidify the place of women in golf, thanks to the phenomenal progression of women’s golf history.


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