The first woman to play golf is widely recognized as being Mary Queen of Scots, who started to play the game in the mid 1550s. She was often joined by members of her court and is famous for handing over a necklace to her attendant, Mary Seton, who defeated the queen on the course.
For the next 300 years, women’s interest in golf was generally minimal. The game was viewed largely as a preserve of the male upper class and gentry but by 1867, that was changing. The first ever La-dies golf club, at St. Andrews in Scotland was formed and in 1891, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club opened its doors to New York’s ladies.
The interest from women golfers was significant and growing; by 1895, the first US Women’s Amateur Championship was held and in 1917, a year after the PGA of America was formed, the Women’s Tournament committee of the USGA was founded, later to become the Women’s Committee of the USGA.
By 1932, women’s golf was markedly on the rise The first Curtis Cup match was played between the amateur ladies of the USA and Great Britain (with the USA winning) and in 1934, Helen Hicks became the first ever female golf professional.
Patty Berg was soon to follow her and arguably she played a pivotal role in women’s golf developing as it has today. Berg was an outstanding golfer, winning 15 majors amongst her 60 victories on the LPGA Tour. She became the first president of the LPGA tour and also taught over 16,000 golf clinics during her time as a player.
While Hicks and Berg were the forerunners of the modern women’s tour pro, other players also made a name for themselves in the period from 1940 to 1960 including Mildred ‘Babe’ Zaharias, who be-came America’s first female golf celebrity and who was widely recognised as one of the most talented athletes to ever play the game, as she also excelled at Basketball and was an Olympic standard athlete, as well as a 41-time winner on the LPGA tour.
She was followed by the likes of Mickey Wright (13-time major winner) and Kathy Whitworth who won 88 events in a 23-year career. Nancy Lopez then became the darling of the women’s golf world, even pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in her rookie season in 1977.
This leads us nicely onto the era of the modern professional where the likes of Julie Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Loreno Ochoa, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam helped bring the women’s game into the 21st century.
Women’s Golf has come a long way from Mary Queen of Scots hitting a ball with attendants in Scot-land over 460 years ago.
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