History of Women in Golf

Where We Have Been and How We Got Here!

The most famous woman golfer of early times was Mary, Queen of Scots. Some say she was the first female golfer in history, but this, of course, will never be known for sure. What is known about Mary is that she played golf not too long after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnly, which brought her great criticism from those who thought she did not observe a long enough mourning period.  British women began forming their own golf clubs in the 1860’s, and as more women desired to play in competition, representatives from several women’s clubs met in London in 1893 and formed the Ladies Golf Union (LGU). The LGU remains o this day the encompassing body for women’s amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland.

The first documented tournament for women was held in 1810 in Mussleburgh, Scotland. First prize consisted of a “creek and a skull” – a fish basket with handkerchiefs – a far cry from today’s monetary purses.

Later in 1893, the first Ladies’ British Amateur Championship, a match play event, was held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and was won by Lady Margaret Scott, who defeated Issette Pearson, the first LGU secretary, by a score of 7-and-6.

Scott was the first great competitive female golfer, as she also won the championship the following two years. She won a tournament at Cheltenham in 1892 playing against men, and she shot a 70 to win a tournament in Bath against the fellows. What was remarkable about her round is that she played from the men’s tees, using the primitive equipment of hickory-shafted clubs and gutta percha golf balls. Thankfully, for both her male and female competition, she married a Swiss gentleman and moved away, never again competing in Britain. However, she did manage to win three Swiss Open championships.

Women’s golf in the United States began taking hold at about the same time. In 1894 the first women’s club was formed at the Morris County Golf Club in New Jersey. They competed that year in a 7-hole tournament where the first prize was a $1,000 Tiffany & Company silver cup.

Although the USGA recognizes Mrs. Charles (Lucy Barnes) Brown as the first US Women’s Amateur champion in 1895, the USGA did not organize that event, instead taking it over in 1896. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac in 1900 mentions the “Fifth annual championship of the United States Golf Association, held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club,” which would mean the first organized by the USGA would have been in 1896. Also, an article in a 1908 edition of the New York Times states how a married woman had yet to win the title “…since the United States Golf Association assumed control of these championships in 1896.”

The first American female superstar in golf was Beatrix Hoyt, who won three consecutive women’s amateur titles from 1896-98. Calling her a “woman” was not entirely accurate, as she won her first title at the age of 16 after taking up the game only two years prior. She failed to win the championship in 1899 and 1900 and promptly retired from the game at the ripe old age of 19.

Below is brief chronology of women in golf from the 1800's through the 21st Century.

19th Century

  • 1867   The Ladies Club of St. Andrew’s, Scotland, is formed — the first ladies’ golf club.
  • 1891   The Shinnaecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island opens its doors to women. Golf proved so popular that the club opened a 9-hole course for women two years later.
  • 1894   The first ladies golf tournament in the U.S. is held on the 7-hole Morristown, N.J., course – which later becomes Morris County Golf Club.
  • 1893: Issette Miller Invents the First Golf Handicap. Her system levels the playing field between competitors of different abilities and experience.
  • 1894   The Amateur Golf Association of the United States — soon to be called the United States Golf Association — is formed.
  • 1895   The First U.S. Women’s Amateur championship is held at the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. 
  • 1900    Margaret Atwood, age 26, wins the women's golf competition at the Olympics (the Paris Games) with a 9-hole score of 47.

20th Century

  • 1916   The Professional Golfers’ Association of America is founded.
  • 1917   Women’s Tournament Committee of the USGA is founded. In 1934 it becomes the Women’s Committee of the USGA.
  • 1932   The first Curtis Cup Match, between women amateur golfers of the USA and Great Britain and Ireland is won by the USA.
  • 1934   Helen Hicks becomes one of the first women golfers to turn professional. There are no professional tournaments but she promotes products              for Wilson-Western Sporting Goods Company.
  • 1936   The National Golf Foundation is established to foster golf’s growth and economic vitality.
  • 1937   Patty Berg wins the first Titleholders Championship for professional and amateur female golfers.  
  • 1938   Patty Berg, twice a runner-up, wins the U.S. Women’s Amateur at age twenty.
  • 1941   Patty Berg Cup Defender “signature” clubs are introduced by Wilson Sporting Goods and become big sellers.
  • 1944   The Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA) is founded. It is replaced by the LPGA six years later.
  • 1945   Babe Zaharias plays against the men in the PGA sponsored L.A. Open, making two of the first three cuts.
  • 1946   The first U.S. Women’s Open is conducted by the WPGA at the Spokane Country Club, Seattle, WA - . Patty Berg wins.
  • 1947   Babe Didrikson Zaharias is the first American to win the British Ladies’ Open Amateur. She turns pro later in the year.
  • 1949   Marlene Bauer, age fifteen, wins the first U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, and turns pro later in the year.
  • 1950   The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is established with financial help from Wilson Sporting Goods. In its first season, the LPGA               included 14 events worth $50,000 in total prize money.
  • 1952   The LPGA establishes the Vare Trophy awarded at the end of the season to the LPGA player with the lowest scoring average. Named after                    Glenna Collett Vare who in 1922 won the first of her record six U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships.
  • 1958   Patty Berg wins the Western Open, her 15th major championship, a record.
  • 1959   LPGA members vote to establish the Teaching Division. In 1991, it becomes the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division.
  • 1960   The first LPGA National Golf School staff is established under the guidance of Shirley Spork and Barbara Rotvig. In the mid 1960s, Ellen Griffin, an active member of the LPGA teaching school, becomes a member of the National Golf Foundation’s “think tank” that gathers for week-long seminars to discuss promotion and teaching of the game.
  • 1961   Louise Suggs defeats a field that included 10 men at the $10,000 Palm Beach Par 3 Invitational.
  • 1961   Mickey Wright and Barbara Romack defeat Arnold Palmer and Dow Finsterwald in a CBS Sports Spectacular on a par-3 course in Las Vegas, playing from the same tees.
  • 1963   First nationally televised women’s event – the U.S. Women’s Open.
  • 1964   Mickey Wright wins 11 tournaments on the LPGA tour.
  • 1964   Alice Dye, the first women invited into the American Society of Golf Course Architects, designs the first complete set of forward tees at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind.
  • 1970   JoAnne Carner joins the Tour at the age of 30 after capturing the LPGA’s Burdines Invitational as an amateur in 1969. “Big Momma,” is still competing as the oldest player on the LPGA Tour.
  • 1972   Congress passes Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activities receiving Federal financial assistance.”
  • 1972   The Colgate-Dinah Shore Winners Circle debuts on the LPGA Tour offering $110,000 – the first six-figure purse in women’s golf.
  • 1973   Mickey Wright sets a record of total victories by capturing her 82nd win on the LPGA tour, the Colgate-Dinah Shore Championship.
  • 1976   Judy Rankin, with $150,734 in earnings, becomes the first LPGA Tour player to earn more than $100,000 in a season.
  • 1977   The PGA of America votes to accept female members.
  • 1978   Nancy Lopez gives the LPGA Tour a boost by winning five tournaments in a row, and nine in all, during her first full season.
  • 1981   Kathy Whitworth is the first woman golfer to top $1 million in career earnings. She captures her 83rd LPGA tournament, breaking Mickey Wright’s record of 82.
  • 1985   Kathy Whitworth wins her 88th LPGA tournament, the all-time record for official victories for women and men.
  • 1988   The first issue of Golf For Women magazine is published.
  • 1989   The LPGA Urban Youth Golf Program and the LPGA Girls Golf Club are established under the guidance of Kerry Graham, LPGA Teaching Division President, and Sandy LaBauve, LPGA Golf Professional.
  • 1990   Juli Inkster becomes the first woman to win the only professional golf tournament in the world in which women and men compete head to head. She wins the Invitational Pro-Am at Pebble Beach in a one-stroke victory.
  • 1990   The Solheim Cup is introduced, pitting professional women golfers from the U.S. against those from Europe.
  • 1991   The LPGA Foundation is established to support junior golf programs and scholarships for girls.
  • 1991   The Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) is founded by Nancy Oliver in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to promote golf among working women.
  • 1991   The first Women in Golf Summit is held. Women leaders in the golf industry meet to discuss ways to increase women’s participation in golf.
  • 1992   The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is named the official charity of the LPGA in 1992, becoming the first national charity to partner with a professional golf association.
  • 1996   Judy Bell becomes the first woman president of the United States Golf Association and serves two one-year terms.
  • 1996   The Rally For A Cure organization is founded to raise money for breast cancer research through the promotion of women’s golf events.
  • 1997   LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division exceeds 1,000 members
  • 1998   LPGA establishes the first-ever sponsored television series in women’s golf. The State Farm LPGA Series included television coverage of seven 1998 LPGA tournaments on ESPN and ESPN2 and offered a bonus pool of $250,000 to players.
  • 1999   Aree Wongluekiet becomes the youngest U.S. Girls’ Junior Golf Champion at 13 years, 3 months, 7 days.
  • 2000   Michelle Wie, 10, becomes the youngest player to qualify for a USGA women’s amateur event when she qualifies for match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

21st Century

  • 2001   After winning the McDonald’s Championship, Karrie Webb became the fifth player in LPGA history to complete the Career Grand Slam, joining LPGA Tour Hall of Famers Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Pat Bradley and Juli Inkster.
  • 2001   In the Battle of Bighorn, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb team up with Tiger Woods and David Duval, respectively, for the Lincoln Financial Group prime-time television event – the first time a male-female pairing has been used for the event. Sorenstam and Woods defeat Webb and Duval on the 19th hole.
  • 2002   At the Kraft Nabisco Championship State of the Tour Press Conference, LPGA Commissioner, Ty Votaw, announces the LPGA’s five-year strategic plan centered on a Fans First philosophy. To better connect with fans, Tour players are asked to concentrate on Five Points of Celebrity: performance, approachability, appearance, joy, passion and relevance.
  • 2002   Suzy Whaley, an LPGA and PGA professional, becomes the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event – the 2003 Greater Hartford Open.
  • 2002   Golf 20/20 establishes a Diversity Task Force to focus on women in golf including their participation as an emerging fan base.
  • 2003   Annika Sorenstam accepts a sponsor’s exemption to play in the PGA Colonial Tournament. Although she does not make the cut, she draws record crowds and television viewers.
  • 2003   Golf 20/20 establishes a pilot program, the National School Golf Program, to introduce golf in 160 elementary schools.
  • 2003   Michelle Wie, age 13, becomes the youngest woman to win a USGA adult women’s competition: the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in Palm Coast, Fla.
  • 2007  Morgan Pressel, age 18, becomes the youngest woman to win an LPGA major tournament at the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the Mission Hills Country Club – Dinah Shore Tournament Course, Rancho Mirage, California (April 1, 2007)
  • 2007  Alexis Thompson, age 12 years and 4 months  becomes the youngest woman to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open July 2007, but she failed to make the cut..
  • 2010  Peggy Ference, age 51,  becomes the first female to play from the tournament tees at the US Open at Pebble Beach in the Golf Digest US Open Challenge. and broadcast nationally on NBC TV on June 20, 1010
  • 2011 Mariel Galdiano from Hawaii, age 13, 11 months and 3 days, becomes the youngest woman to make the "cut" at the U.S. Women's Open July 2011 at Colorado Springs, CO.  (Alexis (Lexi) Thompson was 14 in July 2009 when she made the cut at the U.S. Women's Open).
  • 2011  (September 18) LexiThompson from Florida, U.S.,, age 16, 7 months and 8 days becomes the youngest woman to win an LPGA multi-round Tournament -- the Navistar Tournament in Alabama (September 18, 2011).  This breaks the earlier 2005  record held  by Paula Creamer when at the age of 18, Creamer became the  the youngest woman to win an LPGA multiple-round tournament in LPGA history at the LPGA Sybase Classic in May 22, 2005.
  • 2011 (September 30) Lexi Thompson , age 16, becomes the youngest member granted full-time status on the LPGA Tour in response to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan's approval of Thompson's petition to waive the LPGA Tour's 18-year-old requirement.nne
  • 2012 (August)  Lydia Ko from New Zealand, age 15 years, 4 months, becomes the youngest woman to win an LPGA multi-round Tournament -- the CN Canadian Open in 
  • 2013 (January)  "Connecting with Her" Playbook, an industry-wide initiative is officially launched by the PGA of America at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fl, with goal to increase the number of female golfers throug a transformational customer-centric model.  Golf industry leaders, Donna Orender and Suzy Whaley, explain comprehensive program at educational conference.
  • 2013 (October) The LPGA grants Lydia Ko's request to join the LPGA waiving the LPGA Tour's 18-year old requirement.
  • 2014  (March 23) Karrie Webb of Austrailia wins the JTBC Fournders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club in Pheonix, AZ making her 41st Tour victory and tying LPGA Founder, Babe Zaharias, for all-time LPGA Tour wins.
  • 2014 (March 26) The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Scotland proposes a motion to admit women members subject to club members' vote in September 2014.
  • 2014 (May 20).  Lucy Li from Redwood Shores, California, 11 years and 8 months, becomes the youngest female to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open on June 19 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, NC.
  • 2014 (May 29)  The LPGA and the PGA of America announce a new partnership:  Beginning in 2015, the LPGA Wegman's Championship (a LPGA "major") will be rebranded as the KPMG PGA Women's Championship and will be played in June (instead of August) and will feature a Women's Business Leadership Summit sponsored by the international accounting firm KPMG.  LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua along with NBC and the Golf Channel will elevate women's professional golf and take a major step in cooperating to empower and educate women to play golf in keeping with the dream of the LPGA Founders.
  • 2014 (JULY 27) LPGA introduces the International Crown Tournament - The top 8 women golfers from the top 8 countries (based on Rolex World Rankings) compete in a match play team event.  Spain won.  It will be played again in 2016 -- alternating years with the women's Solheim Cup matches to be played in Germany in 2015.
  • 2014 (November 22) Suzy Whaley, a member of the PGA of America and an LPGA Professional is elected to the position of Secretary of the PGA Board of Directors making her the first female officer in the history of the PGA of America. 
  • 2015 (June 11-14) PGA of America together with KPMG (international accounting firm) sponsor the LPGA Championship -- an LPGA "maor" tournament with the  highest purse of $3.5 milliion becoming the first time The PGA has sponsored an LPGA Tournament as mutually  arranged by the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, and the Executive Director of the PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua.
  • 2015 (August 2)  Inbee Park of Korea wins the RICOH Women's British Open -- earning her fourth title of a women's golf "Major" giving her a "Grand Slam" -- something only a handful of other female golfers have earned.   Now that the Evian Championship will be considered a "major", there is an opportunity for a "Super Slam."
  • August 7, 2015.  The industry mourns the loss of Louise Suggs, a Founder of the LPGA.  She died at the age of 91 (almost 92) and was able to attend the LPGA 2015 Founders Cup Tournament which honors the courageous founders of the LPGA in 1950.
  • August 16, 2015.  Brooke Henderson, age 17, wins the Cambia Portland Classic and becomes the third women (under the age of 18) to win a LPGA Tour event.
  • September 13, 2015.  Lydia Ko, age 18, becomes the youngest player to win an LPGA "major" the Evian Championship in Evian, France (a few months younger than the record set by Morgan Pressel in 2007 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship (now the ANA Inspiration - at Mission Hills, CA)
  • September 20, 2015.  Team USA led by Captain Juli Inkster defeats Team Europe led by Captain Carin Koch and brings the Solheim Cup back to the U.S.
  • October 25, 2015   Lydia Ko of New Zealand marks  10th career LPGA Tour victory and becomes the youngest male or female to reach 10 wins at 18 years, 6 months and 1 day old. She breaks Nancy Lopez’s LPGA record (22y/2m/5d) by nearly 3 ½ years.
  • January 30, 2016.  Ha Na Jang of South Korea has the first par-4 hole-in-one in LPGA History on the 218-yard  8th hole of the Ocean Club Golf Course at the LPGA Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.
  • February 6, 2016.  Diana M. Murphy of St. Simons Island, Ga. is elected to serve a one-year term as the 64th president of the United States Golf Association (the USGA). She is the second woman in the USGA's 121-year history to serve as president, following Judy Bell, who was president in 1996 and 1997.  The USGA together with the Royal and Ancient (the R&A) in Scotland governs the game of golf worldwide.
  • June 9, 2016.  Inbee Park officially qualifies for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame having met the LPGA’s ten-year membership (completing the first round of the KPMG PGA Championship on June 9, 2016) and having earned the 27-point requirement for specified accomplishments such as winning the Vare Trophy -- twice, which recognizes the player with the lowest scoring average for a year.
  • June 12, 2016.  Brooke Henderson becomes the youngest player to win an LPGA "Major" tournament -- the KPMG PGA Championship at the Sahalee Country Club iin Seattle, Washington. (This major was formerly named the LPGA Championship).  Brooke narrowly edged out Lydia Ko's "youngest" victory in October 15, 2015
  • August 17, 2016-August 21, 2016.  Women's golf competition returns to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- 60 golfers from 34 countries; the first was in 1900 in Paris.  The winners:  Gold - Inbee Park of Korea, Silver - Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Bronze - Shan Shan Feng of China.