Golfing History - A Time Of Living Memory
The Ladies PGA was formed in 1951 (European version in 1988) and replaced the Women's Professional Golf Association. The first Women's Open was held in 1946 and won by Patty Berg.
Perhaps the greatest lady golfer of the time was Mildred 'Babe' Didrikson Zaharias. She won the US Women's Amateur in 1946, the Women's British Amateur in 1947 and the US Women's Open in 1948, 1950 and 1954. If that wasn't enough, she only took up golf after retiring from an athletics career, which included three Olympic gold medals and world records.
After the war, most professionals, with the exception of the great Ben Hogan, chose to compete exclusively in America because of the sizeable prize money on offer. In recognition of this fact, the R&A increased the prize money for the British Open, which helped to bring the top players back to Europe.
The 1960s brought with it something special in the guise of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - the Modern Triumvirate. They dominated the game into 1970s winning nearly every major event around the world and competing in the prestigious international matches. Nicklaus for example, can claim an unbeaten record of four US Open, six US Masters titles and five US PGA Championships.
While the pre-war period might be considered as the age of women's liberation both socially and golf wise, the 1960s brought with it the struggle against bigotry. In 1961, the PGA withdrew it's 'whites-only' rule from it's constitution. Charlie Sifford became the first black golfer to contest a PGA event and Lee Elder the first to contest the Masters in 1975. However even in 1990, when the PGA introduced further measures to end racial discrimination, more clubs notably, Cypress Point, withdrew from the Tour. Perhaps Tiger Woods' outstanding victory in the 1997 US Master has finally changed attitudes.
The most famous golf shot ever must surely be Alan Shephard hitting a ball on the moon in 1971, watched by an audience of millions around the world. Does this make golf the first sport in space? The club he used can be viewed in USGA museum.
The Americans and South African Gary Player dominated world golf during the 1970s. Only when Severiano Ballesteros won the British Open in 1979 and the US Masters in 1980, did the pendulum swing back in favor of the Europeans. Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie re-established Britain's competitive presence in world golf.
Individual success was matched with team success when the Europeans, captained by Tony Jacklin, won the Ryder Cup in 1985 - ending a 28-year American dominance. The Solheim Cup, the women's version of the Ryder Cup, was launched in 1990. By 1991, Europeans were at the top of the Sony World Rankings with Ian Woosnam hitting the top spot.