Back in the days when my parents dragged me to the country club while they played golf, all I ever heard about was the great Mickey Wright. Years later, when I qualified to play on the LPGA Tour, I was lucky enough to play in a couple events where Mickey was in the field. When I first saw her in person, I was awestruck.
If you have ever stood on the driving range at a PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour event, you know the feeling. It’s like watching artists at work. If you close your eyes and listen to the sound of club meeting ball, you recognize the huge difference between the best in the world and those who play the game recreationally. What almost everyone says about LPGA Tour players is they make it look so easy and hit it so far. No one typified that more than Mickey Wright.
So, why was Mickey different?
Shirley Spork, one of the founding members of the LPGA says, “Well she had the best swing ever, we all wanted her swing, we all wanted to hit it as far as she did. She was the first person to hit the 5 pars in 2 and therefore could register scores under par that brought out the spectators. So, she was looked up to and was taught by Harry Pressler to use her legs in the golf swing to drive and get the force effort through the ball. She had to create extension away from the ball, but she had tremendous extension through the ball. Clearing her body out of the way, her arms could swing and extend through the shot.”
Judy Rankin, World Golf Hall of Fame Member and Television Broadcaster says, “Clearly, the way she played golf was intimidating. One of the things that was so extraordinary at that time given the equipment we had was that Mickey could hit the ball very, very high, and was a great long-iron player. She was a great driver of the golf ball, but she separated herself in women’s golf the way (Jack) Nicklaus separated himself in men’s golf, with the long irons.
“I don’t think anyone was like her then and no one is like her today. No one is really playing the long (2- and 3-irons) today and hitting the ball high isn’t that big a challenge like it was in the ’50s and ’60s. She was long at a time when no one knew long. She carried the ball farther than most people thought about. (Her swing) would have probably lasted well into the 1980s if she had kept playing.”
I find it interesting that Ben Hogan said Mickey Wright had the best golf swing ever.
Isn’t it funny that arguably the best two golf swings that have ever been created were owned by two introverted perfectionists? Both Ben Hogan and Mickey shunned the spotlight. They were students of the golf swing, always seeking perfection.
As a Certified Behavioral Analyst, I love figuring people out. I happen to be married to a past champion and life member of the PGA TOUR who has been ranked the second purest ball striker who has ever been tested by short game guru Dave Pelz. Lee Trevino was number one, Allen Miller was number two. Allen and I are the only married couple in the world who have played on four major tours: the LPGA Tour, the PGA TOUR, the PGA TOUR Champions, and the Legends Tour. I tell you this not to brag, but to showcase how different personalities approach the game. Ben Hogan, Mickey Wright, and Allen Miller would prefer to hit balls all day and try to perfect their swings. Lee Trevino, Christina Kim, and Cindy Miller would prefer to go play a match. We are all different. It’s okay for you to be yourself and become the best player you can be.
But there is so much to learn from two of the greatest golf swings of all time.
The first picture is Mickey at the beginning of her downswing. The second is Ben Hogan at the same point. Both have great lag. What does that mean? The clubhead is well behind the hands. Lag is created in the downswing when the hands, wrists, and arms are supple enough to stay back while the legs start moving forward.
Also, notice that both of their heads and the center point of their bodies are behind the ball all the way through impact. This create leverage.
In the third and fourth photos, Mickey and Ben are coming through the ball. Their heads are back, and their shoulders are tilted vertically while their knees are bent with a space between them. This ensures that they stay back and fire through, which creates high ball flight. Someone who moves forward will lose distance and height. On TV, some announcers would say they “stayed behind it” through impact with a complete club head release.
I wish I had known Mickey Wright. I do know the two women I have quoted above. I played on Tour with Just Rankin. I would watch her practice diligently with her husband and son trailing behind. I remember the first U.S. Women’s Open I ever qualified to play in. The course was so long. And I overheard Judy telling reporters there was a par five she couldn’t even reach in three.
I felt so much better about myself after hearing her say that. I couldn’t reach it, either.
I have also become friends with Joanne Carner and Kathy Whitworth. I would sit back and watch these women practice and play. They have since become mentors to me. I value their wisdom and cherish their friendships. All of them agree that Mickey swung the club better than anyone. She was our Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Jack Nicklaus all rolled into one.
I challenge you to learn more about the great women of the LPGA Tour and Legends Tour. There is so much talent and wisdom out there. You just have to have the courage to ask for their advice. I dare you.