It was only last summer that the Augusta National Golf Club allowed women to play on its course. This is rather ironic considering a woman first introduced the sport of golf to Scotland, home to one of the most iconic golf courses in the world.
Though golf is often associated with the roughly 22 million men who play it, the sport is truly a woman’s game. Today, women are the fastest growing segment of new golfers according to the National Golf Foundation, and there are more than 6 million female golfers in the United States. Given that the history of women in golf goes way back to the 1500s, we decided to give you a Cliff Notes version of the greatest moments for women in the history of golf.
1550s: Mary Queen of Scotts Builds a Golf Course
The queen commissioned the building of the golf course at St. Andrews — long considered the true origin of the sport — and reportedly came up with the term “caddies.” (The idea of having someone assist you with all those golf clubs was apparently very appealing to the Scots.) Given that she brought golf over from France to Scotland, we golf fans owe this lady a lot of credit!
Unfortunately no one heard anything about women golfing again until the 1800s…
1867: First Women’s-Only Golf Organization Is Formed
That year, St. Andrews formed The Ladies Club, the first women’s golf organization, and more clubs soon followed, with Musselburgh and Wimbeldon organizing groups in 1872 and Carnoustie in 1874. Women’s competitive golf also was aided by the formation of the Ladies Golf Union in Great Britain and the inaugural Ladies Championship in 1893, according to ExeGolf Magazine.
1893: Issette Miller Invents the First Golf Handicap
Londoner Issette Miller helped develop one of the earliest golf handicap systems in 1893, according to the book Ladies Get a Grip. Her system levels the playing field between competitors of different abilities and experience.
1950: The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Is Formed
Babe Didrickson-Zaharias, Patty Berg and Louise Suggs were some of the most popular golfers in the early years of the LPGA, which forever established golf as a professional women’s sport.
1950-1956: Babe Didrickson-Zaharias Becomes the First Lady of Golf
Babe Didrickson-Zaharias really helped put golf on the map as a women’s sport. An Olympic medal winner for track and field, she is the only woman to ever qualify for a men’s golf tournament. She gained entry into both the Phoenix and Tucson events by playing in 36 hole qualifiers — and not because she was chosen by a sponsor, as is common in golf.
She was a founding member of the LPGA in 1950 and went on to win 82 times as an amateur and a professional, including the U.S. Women’s Amateur, British Ladies Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Open.
Despite developing colon cancer in 1954, she continued to play. In fact, she won the U.S. Women’s Open while wearing a colostomy bag as she was only one month out of surgery. She died in 1956 of the disease.
1978: Nancy Lopez Makes History
She became the first female golfer to earn both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors from the LPGA in the same season.
1996: Karrie Webb Breaks the Bank
Karrie Webb became the first LPGA golfer to earn $1 million in a single season.
2004: Michelle Wie Becomes the Youngest Player to Ever Qualify for the LPGA
At 12 years old, golf prodigy Michelle Wie became the youngest woman to qualify for an LPGA event. She went on to break many records.
2007: St.Andrews Hosts Its First Women’s Tournament
St. Andrews, the club that started it all, hosted its first women’s professional tournament, the Women’s British Open.
2012: Augusta Allows First Female Members
In August of 2012 the Augusta National Golf Club invited women to play on its course for the first time in its 80-year history: former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore. The club had been protested by women’s groups in the past but the issue really came to light when it technically had to offer membership to Virginia Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM, as the club always offered admittance to that company’s CEOs. ”At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport,” said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement.
Are you surprised by women’s hand in golf’s history? Tell us in the comments!
Photo courtesy of Pine Hurst