This beloved annual golf tournament, The Masters, is having its 80th anniversary this weekend. Even though it’s a great sporting event, women in golf have yet to be included – but that might shift soon. With more young female talents like Michelle Wie on the scene, golf is certainly changing for the better. “Gender barriers are being broken,” said Wie optimistically after Augusta National admitted its first women members in 2014. “We just need to keep this forward momentum going.”
Just a few years ago, women were not allowed to golf at the prestigious Augusta National club. In 2014, however, the USGA hosted the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens on the same course in back-to-back weeks for the first time ever – something that will also occur during 2016 Olympics. Plus, male and female golfers will soon be able to compete against each other after both tours decided to work together. Women playing golf are taking up golf at accelerated rates, and there are already over 6 million female golfers in the United States according to the National Golf Foundation.
Even though it’ll take some time, let’s look at the best moments for women’s golf throughout history.
1550s: Mary Queen of Scotts Builds a Golf Course
The queen commissioned the building of the golf course at St. Andrews, which is widely considered to be where the sport originated. She also apparently came up with the term “caddies” (for those who assist you in carrying all your golf clubs). Given that she brought golf over from France to Scotland, we owe her a lot of credit!
Women didn’t gain popularity in golf again until the 1800s.
1867: First Women’s-Only Golf Organization Is Formed
In 1874, The Ladies Club was formed at St. Andrews; it was the first women’s golf organization. This sparked a domino effect, with Musselburgh and Wimbeldon organizing similar groups in 1872 and Carnoustie following suit in 1874. According to ExeGolf Magazine, another contributing factor to the growth of women’s competitive golf was the formation of the Ladies Golf Union in Great Britain as well as the inaugural Ladies Championship in 1893.
1893: Issette Miller Invents the First Golf Handicap
According to the book, Ladies Get a Grip, Londoner Issette Miller created one of the earliest golf handicap systems in 1893. This system gives beginners a fighting chance against more experienced players.
1950: The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Is Formed
Babe Didrickson-Zaharias, Patty Berg, and Louise Suggs were some of the first professional golfers in the early years of the LPGA, which cemented golf as a women’s sport.
1950-1956: Babe Didrickson-Zaharias Becomes the First Lady of Golf
Golf wouldn’t be nearly as popular of a sport for women in golf if it weren’t for Babe Didrickson-Zaharias. She was an Olympic medalist for track and field, but more importantly, the only woman to ever qualify for a men’s golf tournament. And she didn’t gain entry into these events by being sponsored like is often the case in golf — rather, she played in 36 hole qualifiers.
In 1950, she co-founded the LPGA and continued to win 82 times as both an amateur and professional player. Some of her titles include the U.S. Women’s Amateur, British Ladies Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Open championships.
She developed colon cancer in 1954, but continued playing and even won the U.S. Women’s Open while wearing a colostomy bag just one month after surgery. She eventually succumbed to the disease in 1956.
1978: Nancy Lopez Makes History
In her first year as a professional golfer, she won both the Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors from the LPGA.
1996: Karrie Webb Breaks the Bank
Karrie Webb made history by becoming the first professional women’s golfer on the LPGA tour to earn one million dollars in prize money in a single season.
2004: Michelle Wie Becomes the Youngest Player to Ever Qualify for the LPGA
At the age of 12, golfing legend Michelle Wie became the youngest woman in history to qualify for an LPGA event. She would go on to break multiple records throughout her career.
2007: St. Andrews Hosts Its First Women’s Tournament
The Women’s British Open, the first professional tournament for women held at St. Andrews, the club where it all started.
2012: Augusta Allows First Female Members
In 2012, for the first time in its 80-year history of women’s golf, Augusta National Golf Club invited women to play on its course. This Milestone progress was led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore breaking barriers within the sport. The golf club had been protested before by various women’s groups; however, the issue came more to light when they were forced to speak, the club had to offer membership to IBM’s first female CEO – Virginia Rometty because only those accepted as members could access exclusive events held there that are related directly to her company always offered admittance any new chief executive officer of hir respective companies tend to be granted automatic admission). “At a time when women playing golf 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.
2014: Michelle Wie Wins her first career major
24-year-old, 6-foot-tall Wie had an excellent day in April when she became the U.S. Open Women’s Golfer Champion. Her putt was recorded as one of the greats. “I think that without your downs, without the hardship, I don’t think you appreciate the ups as much as you do,” Wie said, the gleaming trophy at her side. “I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15. I feel extremely lucky,” she said after the win.
Are you surprised by women’s hand in golf’s history? Tell us in the comments!
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