- RACE TO CME GLOBE
LPGA co-founder Marilynn Smith was known as “Miss Personality” and the “LPGA’s Goodwill Ambassador” on the LPGA Tour in its early years. And it was Smith, wearing pearls and heels, who was often pushed out to ad-lib the LPGA’s earliest public relations efforts in front of fans, sponsors and the media.
Accompanied by her fellow pros, she would often hit balls from home plate to the outfield and invite fans at Major League Baseball parks to come watch the local LPGA tournament. Once, she even attended a boxing match with the goal of reminding fans between rounds to attend that week’s LPGA event. Unfortunately, the grueling nature of the sport made Smith swoon and one of her fellow pros had to jump into the blood-splattered ring to invite boxing fans to come watch women’s golf.
But while Smith was a true girl-next-door native of Topeka who called herself “just an ordinary gal from the Kansas prairie who has lived an extraordinary life,” she was a solid competitor on the LPGA Tour from 1957 to 1976, playing a more limited schedule until 1985.
During that time, Smith won 21 tournaments, including two major championships at the 1963 and 1964 Titleholders Championships. The Kansan’s first LPGA win came at the 1954 Fort Wayne Open in Indiana, with her final professional title notched at the 1972 Pabst Ladies Classic. She recorded nine top-10 finishes on the LPGA’s money list from 1961-1972.
Smith was always interested in helping the LPGA build a strong foundation. She served as the LPGA’s president from 1958-1960, and along with players Betty Hicks, Barbara Rotvig and co-founder Shirley Spork, she helped launch what would become the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals (T&CP) in 1959.
As was typical in the LPGA’s early days, Smith conducted golf clinics alongside fellow LPGA founder, the late Patty Berg. She participated in more than 4,000 golf clinics around the world and was a regular face in the LPGA “Swing Parade” clinics that were conducted for two decades. Since 1949, the Kansan estimates that she has taught some 250,000 golfers.
But “Miss Personality” didn’t end her involvement in the game when she concluded her career in competition. She became the first female TV commentator at a men’s golf tournament at the 1973 U.S. Open Championship. She also organized the Marilynn Smith Founders Classic, which was the first senior women’s professional golf tournament. And she went to work raising funds for college-bound women golfers, hosting the annual Marilynn Smith LPGA Charity Classic.
In October 2000, when she became one of six inaugural inductees into the LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in October 2006, through the Lifetime Achievement category, becoming the 23rd member of the LPGA Tour to earn Hall of Fame entry.Hobbies include people, politics, photography, talk shows, dogs, historical travel and music, especially Latin music.