Kathy Whitworth, winningest golfer ever on a single pro tour, dies at 83
Kathy Whitworth set a standard in golf that no one has ever surpassed, whether it was Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, or Mickey Wright. Her 88 victories on a single professional tour are the most of any player.
Whitworth, who won nearly a quarter of a century of LPGA Tour wins and was the first woman to earn $1,000,000 for her career on LPGA, died on Christmas Eve, according to her long-time partner. She was 83.
Bettye Odle did not disclose the cause of Whitworth’s death. She stated that Whitworth died suddenly Saturday night, while celebrating with her family and friends.
Odle released a statement by the LPGA Tour stating that Kathy left the world the same way she lived it – loving, laughing and creating memories.
Whitworth won her first of 88 titles at the Kelly Girls Opens in July 1962. Whitworth won six majors in her career. In 1982, Whitworth captured the Lady Michelob title breaking Mickey Wright’s record for 82 career wins.
1985 was her last victory at the United Virginia Bank Classic.
Whitworth once stated, “Winning never gets old.”
The U.S. Women’s Open was all that was missing in her career. It was the largest of all women’s majors. She said that she would have traded being the first woman to earn more than $1 million in her career for the Open in 1981. However, it was a consolation prize that took the pain out of not winning.
Sorenstam described her on Twitter as the LPGA’s all-time winner and a “total class act”, who will be missed.
Kathy wrote, “Thanks for setting such high standards, Kathy.”
Whitworth was the AP Female Athlete of the year in 1965 and 1967. She easily defeated Billie Jean King, the Wimbledon singles champion. Whitworth was inducted into The World Golf Hall of Fame on February 22, 1982.
She was named the LPGA player-of-the-year seven times during an eight year span (1966-1973). She won the Vare trophy for lowest scoring average seven times, and was the top-earning player in eight seasons.
However, she was identified by a single number – 88.
Snead won a record 82 PGA Tour wins, a record Woods has matched. Wright won 82 times on LPGA Tour. Sorenstam had 72 wins after retiring from the tour in 2006.
Betsy Rawls once said that Mickey had the best swing and was probably the greatest golfer she ever saw. “But Kathy was the greatest player of the game I have ever seen.”
Whitworth was born in Monahans in West Texas. She learned to golf in New Mexico. At age 15, Whitworth began playing on the nine-hole El Paso Natural Gas course in Jal, New Mexico.
Soon, she was a two-time New Mexico State Amateur winner. After briefly attending Odessa (Texas) College she became a pro golfer at the age of 19. She joined the LPGA Tour in December 1958.
Whitworth once said that he was very fortunate to know what he wanted to do. “Golf grabbed me by my throat. It was so much fun. When I was 15 years old, I thought everyone knew what they wanted to be when I was there.
Wright’s swing was more pleasing to the eye. Whitworth was all about grinding and winning.
Whitworth won eight times in 1963, 1965, and 11 in 1968. She never earned more than $50,000 in any of those years. All these years later, the LPGA Tour total prize money for 2023 will surpass $100 million.
Whitworth continued to run junior clinics and was active in the game.
She once stated, “I don’t think about the legacy 88 tournaments,” “I did it because my goal was to win, not to set any record or achieve a goal that others could match. I’m not an oddity. I was fortunate to be so successful. What I did to be a better player doesn’t make me a better person.
“If people remember me, I feel it is enough,” I reply to questions about how I would like to be remembered.
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