Few sports are as captivating to players and spectators alike as golf. Golf is a sport that everyone can play and excel at, and the best women’s golfers of all time are definitely familiar with performing at the highest level. Unlike other popular sports, women in golf have a long and storied history.
Although the origins of the game of golf are greatly debated, the game is said to have originated in Scotland during the Middle Ages. Since then, golf has become one of the most widely played sports in the world, and women have been involved in the game for centuries. In fact, Mary Queen of Scots is credited with coining the term “caddies” and overseeing the building of St. Andrews Links – one of the most renowned golf courses in the world. Still, the first recorded women’s golf tournament wasn’t until 1811.
Clearly, our society needs to do better in gender equality, but sports are the great equalizer, right? Well, according to researchers at Durham University, misogyny toward female sports participants is a common sight, especially among male football (soccer) fans in Europe. After conducting a survey featuring 1,950 male football (soccer) fans using 150 online message boards, the research team discovered openly misogynistic attitudes toward women’s sports among respondents.
Disheartening, to say the least. However, even the most powerful sports league in the world seems like it’s benefiting from involving more women, especially in the business side of things. According to a recent study, NFL teams with more women in the front office have fewer players arrested. The study found that franchises with two or more women in front-office positions experience a 21 percent decent decrease in arrests among players. That’s definitely good news if you’re a fan of one of those teams.
So, how have women broken barriers in golf? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 sports and golf-oriented websites in an effort to bring you the best women’s golfers of all time. Our list is comprised of the top five women most frequently recommended across these sites. As always, feel free to get in on the conversation and share your opinion in the comments.
The List: Best Women’s Golfers of All-Time, According to the Experts
1. Annika Sorenstam
Annika was truly a dominant force on the links as she compiled victory after victory during her run in the ’90s and 2000s. Annika was an easy choice for the top pick as she appeared as number one across more than half of the lists we referenced while never being listed lower than fourth.
“She’s the GOAT. Annika Sorenstam could’ve played even longer, but retired in 2008 with 72 LPGA wins, and 17 Ladies European Tour wins, ranking third and fifth all-time respectively. Sorenstam won 10 majors, was named Player of the Year eight times and is the only female golfer to shoot a score of 59 in competition,” explains Sportsnaut.
Annika made history when she competed in a PGA Tour Men’s event. For a long stretch during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Annika was right up there next to Tiger Woods in terms of the best golfers in the world. “Sorenstam shot to prominence in 2003 when she became the first player since Babe Zaharias to play in a men’s PGA Tour event and she is also the only female player to shoot 59,” adds Golf Monthly.
Still, Annika was a winner. Every time she stepped on the tee at an LPGA event, Annika Sorenstam had a shot to take first place. “She was Rookie of the Year in 1994, an eight-time LPGA Tour Money Winner, and six-time Vare Trophy winner. Not many female golfers won as often as her,” adds At the Buzzer.
2. Mickey Wright
Mary Katherine “Mickey” Wright appeared in every list we consulted and she’s the only golfer who challenged Annika for the top spot. “Wright topped the LPGA money list for four consecutive seasons from 1961 to 1964 and made the top ten on the list thirteen times in total between 1956 and 1969. Wright won at least one LPGA title for 14 straight seasons, from 1956 to 1969,” explains Deemples.
Some people would say Ben Hogan had the greatest swing in #golf history, but Hogan would say it was Mickey Wright. She won the 1954 World Amateur Championship and would turn pro the same year. She would end her career with 90 professional wins and 13 majors. #history pic.twitter.com/fPO4bnbIhu
— Shanking Shots Historical Society (@ShankingShots) December 9, 2022
Mickey Wright was one of the best golfers of her time, male or female. And, her male champion counterparts were happy to testify to Mickey Wright’s greatness. “Ben Hogan once said that Mickey Wright’s swing was the best he had ever seen. Her winning record seems to suggest it worked too as she won 90 times as a professional and 13 of those were Majors,” states Golf Monthly.
That’s saying something from Ben Hogan. Still, Mickey Wright knew how to parlay her beautiful swing into victories at events. “Being paid that compliment by the one golfer that was obsessed with creating the perfect swing, that is when you know Mickey Wright was one of the best to ever play. But also one of the most staggering facts is that Wright achieved all of this in just a 13-year career. 13 also seems to be the lucky number for Wright as she managed to win 13 tour events in 1963, which is a single-season record that still stands today,” adds Golf Gear Direct.
3. Kathy Whitworth
Kathy Whitworth appeared on 90 percent of the sites we visited, making her a clear choice to mention. Whitworth was truly a pioneer as a female golf champion. “Kathy Whitworth won an incredible 88 times on the LPGA Tour, with her most dominant years coming in the 1960s and ’70s. She won six Major titles too and was the first American captain for the inaugural Solheim Cup in 1990,” explains Golf Monthly.
Whitworth was a consistent winner and a great champion. In 1975, her greatness was eventually celebrated. “Whitworth captained the USA in the inaugural Solheim Cup in 1990 and recorded at least one victory in 17 consecutive years. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975,” adds SportyTell
Whitworth competed for several years beyond her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Then, in 1981, Whitworth made more history, paving the way for future generations of lady golf champions. “Kathy Whitworth became the first woman to reach career earnings of $1 million on the LPGA Tour in 1981. Kathy achieved the title of LPGA Tour 88 times which is the highest of all time in golf history,” furthers Sports Muntra.
4. Patty Berg
Patty Berg is considered a founding golfer of the LPGA and she’s also one of the winningest female champions of all time. “The criteria and weight given to majors in women’s golf is tricky because the tournaments that count as such have changed often throughout LPGA Tour history. Patty Berg does own the all-time mark with 15 major wins, however, so by any measure, she’s in the GOAT conversation,” writes Sportsnaut.
The great Patty Berg at the 1938 Minnesota State Championship – pic.twitter.com/Fi6uoWvZZJ
— TheGolfDivoTee™ (@TheGolfDivoTee) August 18, 2022
Patty Berg was a true pioneer. And like many pro golfers, Berg was a talented all-around athlete. “One of the founding members of the LPGA Tour, Berg is widely thought to be the player who helped revolutionize women’s golf. She also has the most Major victories ever with 15,” writes Golf Monthly.
“She turned pro in 1940 after winning 29 titles as an amateur. As a pro, she won the Western Open seven times, the Titleholders’ Championship seven times, and the U.S. Women’s Cup once. She also served in the Marine Corps and was a speed skater in the winter months,” explains At the Buzzer.
5. Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Rounding out the list of the best women’s golfers of all time is Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Similar to Patty Berg, Zaharias was a multi-sport athlete who excelled at sports other than golf.
Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, the greatest athlete Texas ever produced. She was also quite the smack talker from what I understand. But what's that old expression? Oh yeah: it's not bragging if you can do it … and Babe surely could do it! pic.twitter.com/ezf5KlEtix
— Traces of Texas (@TracesofTexas) November 2, 2022
“With 41 Tour wins and 10 Majors she definitely has the resume as one of the best. Also as one of the founding members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), she will always have her name in the history books,” writes Golf Gear Direct.
Zaharias’s first sport was track and field and she even participated in the Olympics. Still, Zaharias was a top female athlete who helped shape the modern LPGA. “An incredible multi-sport athlete who won two gold medals and a silver at the 1932 Olympics in track and field, Babe Didrikson Zaharias’ golf career was brief but incredible. She died at age 45 in 1956, had only turned pro in golf in 1947. Despite that late start, Zaharias helped found the LPGA, and has 10 majors and 41 tour wins to her name,” furthers Sportsnaut.
There was a 25-year stretch where Babe Zaharias was one of the best female athletes in the entire world. Zaharias’s run of dominance across sports such as golf and track and field more than earns her a place as one of the most influential women sports figures of her time.
“Not many athletes can say they’ve done what Babe Zaharias did between 1930-1955. She competed in the 1932 Summer Olympics and won two Gold Medals in track and field. She then turned her focus to golf and went on to become one of the best female golfers of all-time,” furthers At the Buzzer.
You may also be interested in:
- Best Women’s Tennis Players of All Time
- Best Men’s Golfers of All Time
- Best Golf Shoes for Women
- Best Golf Clubs
- Best Golf Gloves
- Golf Monthly
- Rookie Road
- At the Buzzer
- Sports Muntra
- Golf Gear Direct
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