Looking back at Patty Berg

If you could replicate the DNA of the prototypical LPGA player it very well could be in the form of LPGA Founder and Hall of Fame member Patty Berg.  Berg, who won 60 LPGA tournaments, including a record 15 majors, proved to be the consummate ambassador to the game of golf.  She exemplified the LPGA's Five Points of Celebrity - Performance, Passion and Joy, Approachability, Appearance, and Relevance.  A charismatic promoter of the game, Berg was one of golf's greatest entertainers.  As a member of the Wilson Sporting Goods staff, with whom she maintained a relationship from 1940, the year she turned professional, until her death in 2006, Berg became widely known for her engaging golf clinics and exhibitions.  Teaching over 16,000 clinics in her career, Berg, who also served as a marine Lieutenant in World War II, reached generations of golfers. 

The success of Berg's clinics and her zest for teaching the game should not overshadow her incredible accomplishments as a player.  As an amateur, Patty grew up playing Interlachen Country Club. She won her first amateur title in the 1934, at the Minneapolis City Championship and claimed her first USGA victory at the 1938 U.S. Women's Amateur at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Illinois.  In fact, she won 10 of the 13 amateur events she played that year and a total of 28 titles in her amateur career.

As a professional, Berg led the LPGA money list three times, and three times, she won the Vare Trophy.  In 1955, she became the first LPGA player to achieve both honors.  During her career, she won an astounding 15 major championships, claiming seven Western Open titles, seven Titleholders Championships, and one U.S. Women's Open, the only time it was played as a match play event.   An acclaimed shot maker and bunker player, Berg was also the first LPGA player to reach $100,000 in career earnings. 

While Berg was undoubtedly an accomplished player and teacher, her greatest legacy was the one with which she left her fellow players.  When the LPGA was founded in 1950, Patty became the organization's first president. She served the tour in this role through 1952.  Her spirit and dedication to the LPGA throughout her career touched the lives of many.  Countless players considered Patty an exemplary role model and a mentor.   

Betsy Rawls, LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Fame member, had this to say about Patty Berg.  “In the early years of the LPGA, Patty Berg was the inspirational leader for the players with her extreme devotion to the organization and to the game of golf.  With her willingness to give her famous clinic every tournament week and to graciously agree to every sponsor request for interviews, speeches and other appearances for sponsors, she set the standard for making friends for our organization that has guided the players for years.  I might add that no one has ever done it quite as well as Patty.”

In 1978, the LPGA established the Patty Berg Award to reward outstanding contributions to women's golf, to honor Patty Berg and to recognize her diplomacy, sportsmanship, goodwill and contributions to the game.  Patty, herself no stranger to awards, was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1938, 1943, and 1955.  She was honored with the 1959 William D. Richardson Award, the 1963 Bob Jones Award, the 1975 Ben Hogan Award, the 1975 Joe Graffis Award, the 1976 Humanitarian Sports Award, the 1990 Patty Berg Award, the 1995 PGA Distinguished Service Award and the 1997 Sprint Lifetime Achievement Award.   She was one of the six inaugural inductees into the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Fame in 2000.

Patty Berg Award recipients:
1979            Marilynn Smith
1980            Betsy Rawls
1984            Ray Volpe
1985            Dinah Shore
1986            David Foster
1987            Kathy Whitworth
1988            John D. Laupheimer
1990            Patty Berg
1991            Karstein Solheim
1992            Judy Dickinson
1993            Kerry Graham
1994            Charles S. Mechem, Jr.
1996            Suzanne Jackson
1997            Judy Bell
1999            Judy Rankin
2000            Louise Suggs
2001            Pat Bradley
2002            Patty Sheehan
2003            Annika Sorenstam
2005            Ty M. Votaw
2008            Dolores Hope

Topics: Berg, Patty

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