Golf’s greatest winner — The first five events of 2023 — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Jan. 5, 2023
Happy New Year golf fans! I hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday season and that the thrust back into reality hasn’t hit you too hard. During our brief hiatus, the world of golf lost a legend and we’ve been mourning her over the last 10 days.
Kathy Whitworth wasn’t a name that I was familiar with until the day of her passing on December 24. I was embarrassed to even admit that to you all, but I don’t think I’m alone in my generation. If you were to Google the most professional golf wins ever, the great Kathy Whitworth wouldn’t pop up.
But rather an extensive list of the most winningest golfers on the PGA Tour and that tour only. Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus have forever shaped the game of golf, but to have those men plastered everywhere instead of Kathy is misleading. Snead and Woods are tied at 82 wins, Nicklaus sits at 73, but Kathy — Kathy claimed 88 professional wins in her 33 year long career.
Her rise to fame and success wasn’t instant, it was a slow burn of sorts. People described her as unpolished, and doubted her ability to even make it on tour. In her rookie season, Whitworth had a stroke average of 80.30 and made just over $1,200 in earnings.
The journey to winning 88 events and being a runner up 93 times, involved a whole lot of losing. So much so that her parents and some friends had subsidized her with $15,000 over a three year period just to keep her dream alive. If it didn’t work out in three years, then she’d go back home and figure out another career.
Those around her recall her nearly giving up, but she sat down at her family’s kitchen table and wrote out exactly what she set out to do. She crafted her own blueprint of success.
“I was really fortunate in that I knew what I wanted to do. Golf just grabbed me by the throat. I can’t tell you how much I loved it.Kathy Whitworth, on her love of the game.
Kathy’s journey of picking the game up at 15, grinding her way through losses, but refusing to do anything else because golf was her passion is exactly the kind of stories of our legends we need to cling on to and never forget.
Women’s golf is the most competitive it’s ever been. Players are turning pro younger and younger each season, and the women in their 30s and 40s are seen as relics almost. There are some exceptions, like Ashleigh Buhai, winning her first event in over 200 starts at age 33.
But the new trend we’re seeing are teenagers, entering this spotlight and becoming household names before they can legally drink or drive. Anna Davis, Amari Avery, Lucy Li, Alexa Pano are all names we’ve become accustomed to since they were in middle school. We’ve seen them at Augusta, we’ve seen them in Netflix Documentaries, and now as they go to college and join the tour, our level of expectation for them have increased ten-fold. We’ve seen excellence from them for so long, we’re use to them winning, so if they fall short what does that mean?
Having such robust, young players wowing us is such a privilege, but is it sustainable? Are these players who picked up a club before they could even walk going to have long-lasting careers? Will it be too much for them mentally or physically? Only time will tell.
“I’m glad when I look back on it that I didn’t succeed right away. When it happened, I was ready. I think some people win without even knowing how they won. I had lost some playoffs. I had come close a few times. You have to learn how to win. You learn by making mistakes and analyzing the round after the tournament and thinking back and saying, ‘Ah, I should have…’”Kathy Whitworth, on winning and losing and how both are essential to the process.
Kathy Whitworth’s career stretch over decades. She began against Mickey Wright (her rival), Louise Suggs (a LPGA founder) and Betsy Rawls and finished with Nancy Lopez, Betsy King and Beth Daniel. A Hall of Fame roster and she still managed to win at least once in 17 consecutive years.
Even after her playing days were over (professionally), she remained a constant essence in the game. She was present at events around the country, presenting trophies, walking in the ropes, riding along as a spectator. In 2013, she was the PING Junior Solheim Cup Captain for Team USA.
She, like the 13 founders of the LPGA, connect past, present, and future.
What makes women’s golf and its epicenter, the LPGA, so special is that connection between past and present. There’s a network that grants players former and current access to each other. The top players in the world have stories of when they were growing up playing together, like Danielle Kang remembering a teenage Brooke Henderson, or Lexi Thompson remembering Lucy Li when she was 11 at the US Open. And as they describes these moments, there is a fondness that rests in their voices, that these are moments they cherish and know that someday the moments will be talked about, will be reflected on. And I’m sure they each have a moment or a story they remember of Kathy.
What we can learn from Kathy beyond winning, is that it’s important to find a passion, fight for it even if it only makes sense to you, root for yourself, and good things will come.
10 days ago, I didn’t know who she was, and now she hasn’t left my mind. Rest In Peace Kathy Whitworth, you’re an icon.
This week in women’s golf
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Epson Tour News
Five at The IX: The first five events of the season
Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions
When: January 19-22
Where: Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Orlando, Florida
Last year’s winner: Danielle Kang
Honda LPGA Thailand
When: February 23-26
Where: Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand
Last year’s winner: Nanna Koerstz Madsen
HSBC Women’s World Championship
When: March 2-5
Where: Sentosa Golf Club, Singapore
Last year’s winner: Jin Young Ko
Blue Bay LPGA
When: March 9-12
Where: Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club, Hainan Island, People’s Republic of China
Last year’s winner: Gaby Lopez
LPGA Drive On Championship
When: March 23-26
Where: Superstition Mountain Golf Club, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Last year’s winner: Leona Maguire
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