Women in Golf

Although Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, reportedly golfed, Mary Queen of Scots is the woman most famously associated with early golf history. Mary is also credited with introducing the term "caddy" to the golf lexicon: When she played in France, she was assisted by young men called cadets (pronounced "kuh-DAYZ").

Women are not much mentioned in golf history for the subsequent 200 years. Scottish fishwives played a tournament at Musselburgh in 1810 for a prize of a "creel and a skull," and British women began forming clubs in the 1860s, establishing the St. Andrews Ladies Golf Club in 1867. In 1893, Issette Pearson spearheaded the formation of the Ladies Golf Union in Britain, which established the first women's golf tournament that same year. Across the pond, in 1894, women in Morristown, N.J., formed the first woman-run (but not women-only) golf club in America, offering a Tiffany silver cup as the grand prize for that year's tournament. The United States Golf Association held the first professional level women's tournament two years later.

The LGU tournament was carried by 18-year-old Margaret Scott, daughter of an earl who owned his own golf course. Margaret had already won tournaments against male golfers at Cheltenham (in an era before women's tees) and her talent and poise changed many minds about women on the links.

Many standout woman golfers followed. Early greats included the Hezlet family, consisting of the talented Mary Linzee "May" Hezlet, her two sisters and their mother, who played into her late seventies; prodigy Beatrix Holt, who at 16 years old won three straight national women's championships after only playing for two years prior; and the dominant Dorothy Campbell, who won 10 British, Canadian and American championships.

Turning to recent women greats, no discussion would be complete without mentioning Annika Sorenstam, a consistent player who holds low-score records in numerous categories and is second only to Mickey Wright for official tournament wins in one season (11 vs. 13). Wright, who held that record in two separate years, is also tied with Babe Zaharias and Pat Bradley for the most majors wins in one season, at three apiece. At the age of 26, Wright was also the youngest woman ever to reach 30 wins. Patty Berg holds the record for the most career majors won, at 15.

Today, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, founded in 1950, is one of the longest-running women's professional sports associations in the world, boasting more than 460 LPGA Tour members, approximately 230 of which are active competitors. Women's golf is here to stay, yet women still struggle to enter men's tournaments.

Let's look at some other groups that struggle for equal access to the links.