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Golf Doctor

This month, let’s pay tribute to history-making women golfers

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In appreciation of Women’s History Month during March,  I thought it would be appropriate to honor some of the important women golfers of our time. Two of them were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame (WGHF) a couple of weeks ago, and two others from New Mexico were already there. These four are Susie Maxwell Berning, Marion Hollins, Nancy Lopez and Kathy Whitworth. There are a total of 37 women currently on the WGHF.

        First, Susie Berning (WGHF 2022) is originally from Pasadena, California, and moved to Oklahoma City when she was 13. She promptly won three Oklahoma State high school championships. After playing college golf at Oklahoma City University, she joined the LPGA Tour in 1964. During her professional LPGA career, spanning most of three decades, she had 11 LPGA wins, including three U.S. Women’s Open championships,

        Next is Marion Hollins (WGHF 2022, posthumously). Hollins (1892-1944) was a fine American amateur golfer. In fact, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur 15 times, and was runner-up on her first attempt in 1913; she won the event in 1921. However, Hollins is best known as a golf-course architect and developer, a truly unique combination for a woman in that era. During the 1920s she played a major role in developing the Monterey Peninsula into a golf mecca, having been involved in Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Pasatiempo at Santa Cruz. After becoming friends with Bobby Jones, she also inspired Jones to pick Alister MacKenzie to be co-designer of Augusta National. Hollins would soon become MacKenzie’s “eyes and ears” -- to report back her valued impressions of the course as it was being constructed.

        Kathy Whitworth had 88 professional career wins (including six majors), the most victories than any other golfer on either the LPGA or PGA Tours. --- six more than Sam Snead and Tiger Woods. Whitworth was born in Monahans, Texas, but grew up in Jal, New Mexico, and went to Odessa College. She was LPGA Player of the Year seven times and won the Vare Trophy for best scoring average seven times, all between 1965 and 1973.
She is a member of the New Mexico Hall of Fame, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Texas Golf Hall of Fame and the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. At the celebrated opening of Sierra Del Rio Golf Club in Truth or Consequences in 2008, which hosted a small LPGA exhibition event, Whitworth gave a brief clinic and I had a chance to chat with her on that occasion. She is friendly, forthcoming and personable; and oh by the way, she had a flawless golf swing at 69. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975.

Nancy Lopez was born in Torrance, California, but spent her childhood in Roswell, New Mexico. She had prodigious golf skills as a kid. She won the New Mexico Women’s Amateur in 1969 when she was 12 years old. When she was a student at Goddard High School in Roswell, she was so good she played on the boys golf team. As a college freshman in 1976, Lopez was named All-American and Female Athlete of the Year for her play at the University of Tulsa.

She left college in her sophomore year and turned pro in 1977. During her first full season on the LPGA Tour in 1978, she won nine tournaments. Lopez is considered to be one of the greatest women golfers ever, having amassed 51 professional wins, and was named LPGA Player of the Year four times and the Vare Trophy winner three times. Lopez was inducted into the WGHF in 1987.

         Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.