LPGA Hall of Fame Committee lifts 10-year entry requirement, leading to the induction of 27-time LPGA Tour winner and two-time major champion Lorena Ochoa
Shirley Spork and LPGA Founders not already in Hall of Fame to be inducted under the Honorary Category
Hall of Fame point now awarded to gold medalist at the Olympics
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., March 29, 2022 – The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the LPGA Hall of Fame Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) announced today that the LPGA Hall of Fame has modified its entry requirements. The most significant modification includes lifting the 10-year playing requirement to enter the Hall of Fame, which makes two-time major champion Lorena Ochoa eligible for induction. Ochoa earned 37 Hall of Fame points in her eight-year playing career before retiring in 2010.
“The Hall of Fame Committee wanted to understand why the 10-year rule was originally instituted, so we talked to the other Hall of Famers about the reasoning,” said Beth Daniel, an LPGA Hall of Famer and member of the LPGA Hall of Fame Committee. “I spoke to Carol Mann right before she passed away. Carol was president of the LPGA when the rule was set up and said it was because they needed players at that time to keep playing to keep the spotlight on the Tour. I think we have seen that the Tour is strong enough now that we don’t need that requirement, so the committee decided to do away with it. If you make the Hall of Fame in less than 10 years, more power to you. We shouldn’t keep you out of the Hall of Fame for that reason.”
The Committee also elected to induct under the Honorary Category the remaining eight of the LPGA’s 13 Founders not already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, including Shirley Spork, who was monumental in creating what is now the LPGA Professionals organization.
“The 13 LPGA Founders were true pioneers whose collective passion, determination and foresight changed the course of history for women’s sports and laid the foundation for what is today the best women’s professional sports organization in the world. It is time to welcome them all into the LPGA Hall of Fame, recognizing the indelible impact they made on the game of golf and the doors they opened for female golfers, and female athletes more broadly,” said LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “As we honor the efforts of the Founders, we also recognize that the LPGA is in a much stronger place than it was even just a decade ago. By removing the 10-year playing requirement, we will open the Hall of Fame to players who excel at the very highest level even in shorter periods of time on the LPGA Tour. Lorena Ochoa is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the history of our game, and we could not be more honored to welcome her into the LPGA Hall of Fame.”
Ochoa played on the LPGA Tour from 2003 to 2010, winning 27 LPGA Tour titles during her career. Her victories include two major championships, the 2007 AIG Women’s Open and the 2008 Chevron Championship. Along with earning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors in 2003, Ochoa was a four-time Rolex Player of the Year (2006-2009) and four-time Vare Trophy recipient (2006-2009). During her time on Tour, Ochoa was No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for 158 weeks (April 23, 2007, to May 2, 2010), which is the record for most total and most consecutive weeks spent at No. 1. She received the news of her induction from 48-time LPGA Tour winner Nancy Lopez, a 1987 inductee into the LPGA Hall of Fame.
“It was very special to receive Nancy’s call. She is a person I admire a lot,” said Ochoa, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017. “When the call came in, I was in my backyard. It started as a casual conversation, how is my family, my children. Then she said she has good news to share. My first thought was something related to my foundation. I could not guess. When she told me I was taken aback, and I was very moved, never imagined. I walked around the garden several times and laughed to myself for several minutes. I composed myself from the excitement, then drove off to pick up my children from school. After that, I called my parents, and my father was very happy and surprised also.
“It’s an honor to receive this recognition. It was unexpected and very special to me".
The following Founders will join the five additional LPGA founding Members in the LPGA Hall of Fame through the Honorary Category:
- Alice Bauer (born 1927, died 2002) – Alice Bauer, the sister of fellow Founder Marlene Bauer Hagge, became one of the 13 LPGA Founders at age 22. An #LPGAMom on Tour, Bauer was one of the first to travel to golf tournaments with her two children. The South Dakota native had an outstanding amateur career, earning South Dakota’s Amateur Woman of the Year at age 14 and winning the South Dakota Amateur title.
- Bettye Danoff (born 1923, died 2011) – Known as “Mighty Mite,” Bettye Danoff began playing golf at an early age after her family opened their own driving range and nine-hole course. Along with her amateur accolades that included four consecutive Dallas Women’s Golf Association Championships from 1945-48, the Texas native was huge in the Tour’s formation. In 2000, she earned the LPGA Commissioners Award, which honors a person or organization who has contributed uniquely to the LPGA and its Members.
- Helen Dettweiler (born 1914, died 1990) – Helen Dettweiler grew up in a family of golfers in the Washington D.C. area and graduated from Trinity College with degrees in History and English before launching her golf career. Dettweiler won the first tournament she ever entered, the 1939 Women’s Western Open. She served as the LPGA’s Vice President in 1950, and later left the Tour to become the head professional at Indian Palms.
- Helen Hicks (born 1911, died 1974) – Helen Hicks started her golf career with a stellar amateur record, which included a win over legendary Glenna Collett Vare at the 1929 Women’s Canadian Open, and victories at the 1931 Women’s Eastern Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Known for her “baseball swing,” Hicks used her big personality to engage fans on the road and helped train future LPGA Founders Opal Hill and Patty Berg on how to conduct golf clinics.
- Opal Hill (born 1892, died 1981) – Opal Hill began playing golf at age 31, urged by her doctors to add exercise as she battled a long-time kidney ailment. After conquering the illness, the Missouri native captured the Kansas City Championship nine times, the 1928 North and South Women’s Amateur Championship and was named to four U.S. Curtis Cup teams. Known as the “matriarch of women’s golf,” she was the first LPGA Professionals honorary member from the Midwestern Section and is a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
- Sally Sessions (born 1923, died 1966) – Sally Sessions served as the LPGA’s first secretary upon its origin in 1950 and performed exhibitions and taught golf clinics while on the road. Sessions, born and raised in Michigan, started focusing on golf after an established tennis portfolio as well. She won the 1946 Michigan Women’s State Championship, was runner-up to Betty Jameson at the 1947 U.S. Women’s Open and won the Mexican Women’s Open. Sessions was the first woman to break par-72 at Pinehurst, with a score of 69 in 1947.
- Marilynn Smith (born 1929, died 2019) – “Miss Personality” and “LPGA’s Goodwill Ambassador” of the organization, Marilynn Smith was crucial in the LPGA’s original public relations efforts in front of fans, sponsors and media. “Just an ordinary gal from Kansas prairie who has lived an extraordinary life,” she was a 1950 Tour rookie and solid competitor from 1957-1976, playing a limited schedule until 1985. She won 21 tournaments, including two major championships at the 1963 and 1964 Titleholders Championships. Smith was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Shirley Spork (born 1927) – In addition to being a Founding Member of the LPGA, Shirley Spork was integral in creating the LPGA Professionals in 1959 and is forever enshrined as an inaugural member of the LPGA Professionals Hall of Fame. A teacher at heart, she played on the LPGA Tour in the summer months while teaching in the California desert during the winter in the early 1950s. The Michigan native was twice named the LPGA National Teacher of the Year (1959, 1984) and served as the LPGA Professionals chairperson for eight years. A trick-shot artist in her day, Spork was known for crowd-pleasing clinics wherever the Tour traveled.
The only other person to be inducted through the Honorary Category is Dinah Shore (1994), who was recognized for her incredible contributions to the LPGA through her relationship with the now Chevron Championship. LPGA Founders Patty Berg, Betty Jameson, Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias were previously inducted based on criteria created before the current points system, and Marlene Bauer Hagge was inducted in 2002 through the Veterans Category. Hagge and Spork are the only two living Founders today.
“Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honor ever in our profession, so I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top,” said Spork on the induction. “I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.”
Additionally, the Committee decided to allocate one Hall of Fame point for an Olympic gold medal. This will apply retroactively to 2016 gold medalist Inbee Park, who was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. Nelly Korda will receive a Hall of Fame point based on her gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing her to a total of nine points in her five years on Tour.
To qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame, Members of the LPGA Tour who were active in 1998 and going forward must meet a minimum point threshold of 27 points. One point is awarded for each LPGA Tour official event win, two points for each LPGA Tour major championship, one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned and now one point for an Olympic gold medal. Players must also have won or been awarded at least one of the following – an LPGA Tour major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors.
The LPGA Hall of Fame Committee can also induct selected individuals through the Honorary Category. The Veterans Category, with inductees nominated by the former Veterans Committee, was created specifically to recognize players Donna Caponi, Marlene Bauer Hagge and Judy Rankin. All three players were granted induction after new LPGA Tour Hall of Fame criteria was introduced in 1999 because they were retired and had met the new 27-point criteria during their playing careers. The Veterans Category has since been dissolved.
The LPGA Hall of Fame Committee includes LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan, Heather Daly-Donofrio, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Kelly Schultz, Mike Waldron, Beth Daniel, Sandra Haynie, Leta Lindley, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb.