Golf Greats Called Her the Best — 'Man or Woman'

Mickey Wright helped make the LPGA a success
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 17, 2020 7:30 PM CST
'Nobody Hit It' Like Mickey Wright
Mickey Wright poses after winning her third Women's National Open golf championship in 1961.   (AP Photo/File)

Mickey Wright, the golf great with a magnificent swing who won 13 majors among her 82 victories and gave the fledgling LPGA a crucial lift, died Monday in Florida of a heart attack. She was 85, the AP reports. The Hall of Famer's 82 wins place her second on the all-time list behind Kathy Whitworth, who won 88. The AP in 1999 named Wright the Female Golfer of the Century and Female Athlete of the Year in 1963 and 1964. A Golf Magazine poll of experts in 2009 called her the best female golfer ever, and men's champions Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson said Wright had the best swing they ever saw. "She was the best I’ve ever seen, man or woman," Whitworth said 2015, adding, "Nobody hit it like Mickey, just nobody."

Mary Kathryn Wright started playing golf seriously at age 11 and won the USGA Girls' Junior Championship at 17. In 1954, she won the World Amateur. She studied psychology for a year at Stanford before dropping out in 1955 to pursue a professional golf career. Her first tournament win came in 1956, and by 1961 she was dominating the tour, winning at least 10 tournaments annually from 1961 to 1964. Among her major wins were four US Opens and four LPGA Championships. Wright retired from the tour in 1969 because of foot issues and mental fatigue: She was the biggest draw on the LPGA Tour and played constantly to help it thrive. "It was a lot of pressure to be in contention week after week for five or six years," Wright said in 2000. "I guess they call it burnout now, but it wore me out." Whitworth said her friend and rival had to play almost every week for the tour to survive. "Sponsors threatened to cancel their tournaments if she didn’t play," Whitworth said. "And, knowing that if they canceled, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to play, Mickey would always play."

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