Golfing great with most pro victories of all time dies aged 83

US

Golfer Kathy Whitworth, who clocked up more wins than any other player on a single professional tour, male or female, has died aged 83.

No one has matched her outstanding 88 victories, not the legendary Sam Snead or Tiger Woods, nor Mickey Wright and Annika Sorenstam, who are considered two of the greatest female golfers in history.

Whitworth, who became the first woman to earn $1m (£829m) on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), passed away on Christmas Eve, her long-time partner said.

Bettye Odle did not divulge the cause of her partner’s death, but said that Whitworth died suddenly on Saturday night while celebrating with family and friends.

“Kathy left this world the way she lived her life – loving, laugh and creating memories,” Odle said in a statement released by the LPGA Tour.

Baseball star Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles, left, and golfer Kathy Whitworth of San Antonio, Texas, hold their Man and Woman Athlete of the Year trophies in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 11, 1967. The two were named by the Associated Press to receive the awards which were given by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. (AP Photo/Robert Houston)
Pic: AP
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Baseball star Frank Robinson and Whitworth hold their AP athlete of the year trophies in 1967. Pic: AP

‘Winning never got old’

Whitworth won the first of her 88 titles in the Kelly Girls Opens in July 1962.

During her career, which spanned nearly a quarter of a century, she won six majors and smashed Mickey Wright’s record of 82 career wins when she captured the Lady Michelob in the summer of 1982.

Her final victory came in 1985 at the United Virginia Bank Classic.

“Winning never got old,” Whitworth once said.

Kathy Whitworth of San Antonio, Tex., holds out her arms to winners cup as she leads the field of 36 going into the final round Sunday, Nov. 27, 1965 with a 54 hole total of 216 in Women's Titleholders Golf Tournament at Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Horace Cort)
Pic: AP
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Whitworth in 1965. Pic: AP

Whitworth’s record among men and women alike

Snead achieved a record 82 wins on the PGA Tour, a total Woods has since matched.

Wright won 82 times on the LPGA Tour, while Sorenstam had 72 when she retired after the 2006 season, aged 36.

None of them have yet touched her 88 victories.

“I don’t think about the legacy of 88 tournaments,” she once said.

“I did it because I wanted to win, not to set a record or a goal that no one else could surpass.

“I’m not some great oddity. I was just fortunate to be so successful.

“What I did in being a better player does not make me a better person.”

Kathy Whitworth responds to the crowd as she prepares to tee off during the Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. on June 20, 2006. Former LPGA Tour player Whitworth, whose 88 victories are the most by any golfer on a single professional tour, died on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, night, her longtime partner said. She was 83. (Carlos Ortiz/Democrat & Chronicle via AP, File)
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Whitworth during the Tournament of Champions in New York in 2006. Pic: AP

The one missing title…

Former golfer Betsy Rawls once told Golf Digest that “Kathy was the best player of the game that I have ever seen”.

The only title missing from her glittering career was the US Women’s Open, the biggest of the women’s majors.

Upon becoming the first woman to bring in $1m in career earnings in 1981, she said: “I would have swapped being the first to make a million for winning the Open.

“But it was a consolation which took some of the sting out of not winning.”

Kathy Whitworth wipes sweat from her face while waiting to tee off at the Raleigh LPGA golf tournament in Raleigh, N.C., July 22, 1972. Pic: AP
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Whitworth waits to tee off at the Raleigh LPGA golf tournament, 1972. Pic: AP

‘Golf just grabbed me by the throat’

Whitworth was born in Monahans, a small west Texas town, and started playing at age 15 in Jal, New Mexico, on the nine-hole course built for the El Paso Natural Gas employees.

She turned professional when she was 19 and joined the LPGA Tour in December 1958.

“Golf just grabbed me by the throat,” Whitworth once told Golf Digest.

“I can’t tell you how much I loved it.

“I used to think everyone knew what they wanted to do when they were 15 years old.”

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