One of professional golf’s leading tournament winners Kathy Whitworth was born on September 27, 1939, in Monahans, Texas. Whitworth started playing golf at the age of fifteen. At nineteen she joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. Over the next fifteen years, she received the LPGA Player of the Year Award seven times.
Whitworth won her first tournament, the Kelly Girls Open, in 1962. Three years later, she was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year. She received the award again in 1967. For her outstanding performance between 1968 and 1977, Golf Magazine named Whitworth “Golfer of the Decade.”
Whitworth was inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame in 1975, but didn’t rest on her laurels. By 1982, she had captured eighty-two LPGA titles. Whitworth won her eighty-eighth title in 1985, setting the tournament victory record for a professional golfer—man or woman.
Golf first became popular among American women in the mid-1890s when the growing leisure class adopted it as one of its new amusements. Magazines such as Ladies Home Journal urged women to try the sport, a sixteenth-century favorite of Mary, Queen of Scots.
For many women of privilege, golf provided the adventure and challenge missing from their restricted everyday lives. The sport’s popularity grew, and by the 1920s, women’s amateur golf tournaments were attracting a range of players and large crowds.
In the 1940s and 1950s, golfing greats Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Patty Berg, and others worked to firmly establish the LPGA Tour, the first professional tour for women, and to make their sport more accessible to women of all races and social classes.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Kathy Whitworth and her peers, including golfing legend Mickey Wright, further developed the LPGA, helping female golfers gain greater acceptance and opportunities for lucrative financial rewards.
- Search across the collections on golf to find images, articles, and personal recollections on this topic.
- Find articles on sporting events and sports personalities in the historic American newspapers database, Chronicling America. Special features on a variety of sports is a good place to start.
- Listen to interviews of notable sports figures found in the collection Sports Byline. The Sports Byline USA radio series is an invaluable archive of the nation’s athletic heritage and includes representatives from every aspect of the sports industry.
- For images of other sports, search across the collections on specific sports such as football, basketball, tennis, or crew. The collection of films, America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894 to 1915, offers a view of almost every popular sport from boxing to yachting.
- Baseball fans won’t want to miss the collections By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s, The Spalding Base Ball Guides, 1889 to 1939, and Baseball Cards.
- Be sure to see the Today in History features on athletes Althea Gibson, a multi-talented athlete who joined the LPGA Tour after her retirement from professional tennis, Jim Thorpe and Satchel Paige.