“While I have never lost a parent, the passing of Louise Suggs feels that way to me,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “Like a parent, she cared deeply for her LPGA family and took great pride in their successes. She always made time to hear my problems and challenges – her personal guidance was priceless.
“Like a parent, I think she was even more proud of the LPGA players of today than she was of her own playing results. I feel like the LPGA lost a parent, but I’m extremely confident that her vision, her competitiveness, and most importantly, her spirit will be with this organization forever.”
Born Mae Louise Suggs on September 7, 1923 in Atlanta, Georgia, the future LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member grew up in a baseball family. Her grandfather owned the Atlanta Crackers and her father, John was a former pitcher who went to Spring Training with the New York Yankees in 1923. But golf became a significant part of their lives when they moved to Lithia Springs and her father built and opened a golf course. Suggs started playing golf at age 10 and before long, she was on her way to a brilliant amateur career.
Suggs won the Georgia State Amateur Championship in 1940 and 1942, the Southern Amateur twice and the North and South Amateur Championship three times (1942, 1946, 1948). She won the Titleholders in 1946, which was a major at the time, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1947. Shortly before turning professional on July 8, 1948, Suggs won the 1948 British Amateur Championship and represented the United States on the 1948 Curtis Cup Team. At the time she turned pro, Suggs held five of the world’s leading amateur trophies.
Over the course of her illustrious career, Suggs won 61 professional tournaments, including 11 major championships. But perhaps her greatest legacy in golf was that she was one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour in 1950. The 13 Founders were involved in all aspects of professional golf – they played, organized tournaments, established rules and by-laws and supervised membership.
It didn’t take long for Suggs to make her impact on the LPGA Tour inside the ropes. She won at least one LPGA tournament for 13 consecutive years from 1950-62 and from 1950-60, she finished in the top-3 on the season-ending money list in every year but one. Suggs was the LPGA’s leading money winner in 1953 when she won nine tournaments, including the Western Open, which was one of the LPGA’s major championships at the time. She also topped the Tour’s season-ending money list in 1960 and served as the president of the LPGA from 1955-57.
A feisty competitor, Suggs was known for her spirit and toughness throughout her career. Her 14-stroke victory over bitter rival Babe Zaharias in the 1949 U.S. Women’s Open still is tied for the largest victory ever in that event’s history.
Suggs is one of only seven women to achieve the LPGA’s Career Grand Slam and was the first to accomplish the feat in 1957. That same year she won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on Tour.
Nicknamed “Miss Sluggs” by Bob Hope for how far she could hit the ball, Suggs was one of the inaugural inductees into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame when it was created in 1967 and was one of six charter members of the LPGA Teaching and Club (T&CP) Division Hall of Fame in October 2000.
Suggs was a trailblazer throughout her career. She became the first woman ever elected into the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame in 1966, paving the way for women to become future inductees. And in 1961 Suggs got the chance to prove that women golfers could compete against men. In an LPGA tournament held on a par-3 course in Palm Beach, Florida, Suggs triumphed against a 24-player field that included fellow LPGA professionals and PGA professionals including Sam Snead.
In his foreword to Suggs’ book, Par Golf for Women, Ben Hogan wrote: “If I were to single out one woman in the world today as a model for any other woman aspiring to ideal golf form it would be Miss Suggs.”
Yet it was long after her playing days were over that Suggs earned many recognitions for the lasting impact she had on the game. The LPGA honored Suggs’ legacy in 2000 when it named the award given to the association’s annual rookie of the year the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year and the award’s trophy the Louise Suggs Trophy. She was awarded the 2000 Patty Berg Award in recognition of her many outstanding contributions to women’s golf and that same year, during the LPGA’s 50th anniversary celebration, Suggs was selected as one of the LPGA’s top 50 players and teachers of all-time.
In 2007, Suggs was honored by the USGA with the Bob Jones Award, which is the highest honored given by the association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. The following year, in 2008, the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) bestowed Suggs with the William D. Richardson Award, which recognizes individuals who have consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf.
Even though Suggs’ professional playing career came to an end in 1962, she still was a strong presence in the golf world especially in her later years. The Georgia native was a fixture each year at Augusta National during The Masters as she was perched in a chair right outside the clubhouse. She was one of seven women granted membership into the R&A this past February after the club voted to end its male-only membership rule which had been in place for 260 years.
And fortunately for those who never got the chance to meet this legendary woman, Suggs’ amazing story will live on in her biography “And That’s That!” which was written by Elaine Scott and published in 2014.
For Suggs, golf and the LPGA were an integral part of her life and two of her greatest loves.
“Golf is very much like a love affair,” Suggs once said. “If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun, but if you do, it breaks your heart. Don’t break your heart, but flirt with the possibility.”