The golf world lost an icon on Monday with the death of LPGA pioneer Mickey Wright, widely acknowledged as the greatest female golfer to ever play the game.
The Associated Press reports that she died of a heart attack at 85 in Florida. She had been hospitalized for several weeks after a fall, according to her attorney.
Wright’s record-setting career
Wright played full-time on the LPGA tour from 1955 to 1969, compiling 82 wins including 13 major victories. According to Golf Channel, her 13 major titles trail only Patty Berg (15) and tie her with Betsy Rawls. Her 82 victories trail only Kathy Whitworth (88).
Wright compiled the bulk of those wins before retiring from full-time tour play at 34 years old. Her single-season tally of 13 wins in the 1963 season remains the tour record.
She was lauded by her peers as the greatest woman to ever play the game, an honor the Associated Press concurred with in 1999, naming her the female golfer of the century. A 2009 Golf Magazine poll of experts called her the best female golfer of all time.
‘Finest golf swing I ever saw’
“Mickey was the best golfer we’ve ever had, and that I’ve ever seen,” Rawls said of Wright, according to Golf Channel.
Ben Hogan praised her as having “the finest golf swing I ever saw.”
Among her 13 major victories were four at the U.S. Women’s Open and four at the Women’s PGA Championship.
According to AP, Wright grew up in San Diego and started golfing competitively at age 11. She won the SGA Girls' Junior Championship at age 17 in 1952 and won the World Amateur in 1954. She spent a year studying at Stanford before leaving school to pursue golf full time in 1955.
She earned her first tour victory in 1956 and went on to win at least 10 tournaments in each season from 1961 to 1964.
Early retirement, impact on LPGA
She retired in 1969 because of foot issues and burnout, according to AP. She joined the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976.
Whitworth praised her friend and rival for her dedication to grow the game.
“The pressure was so great,” Whitworth said, according to the Hall of Fame. “Sponsors threatened to cancel their tournaments if she didn't play. And, knowing that if they canceled, the rest of us wouldn't be able to play, Mickey would always play.”
After retirement, Wright moved to Stuart, Florida in 1974 where she remained for the rest of her life.
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