WHO WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO PLAY GOLF?
The powerful women who have shaped the history and modern landscape of golf are an inspiration to many.
From Issette Miller, who introduced a revolutionary handicapping system that gave everyone a fair chance, to Annika Sörenstam, President of the International Golf Federation, these female pioneers have redefined what it means to play golf.
Discover the powerful women who led the way and who, like Diane Lanctôt, founder of NVO, stood up to make women shine in golf and sports.
The Queen of Golf
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots from December 1542 to February 1587, is known in popular culture as a romanticised historical character, but she also set the tone of golf history as she is considered the first woman to have regularly played golf.
Her influence extended beyond her royal court, with Mary Stuart being credited for coining “caddie,” derived from cadets, which she used when referring to her assistants.
Women who Revolutionized Golf
In 1893, while golf was a traditionally male-dominated sport, Frances Issette Jessie Pearson, known as Issette Miller, shattered the sport’s gender barriers by becoming a leading female golfer and introducing a revolutionary handicapping system.
This levelling force gave all players—regardless of skill level or sex—an equal chance to compete and enjoy the game.
In 1934, Helen Hicks was among the first women to become a professional golfer and the first woman to sign with a sporting goods company, Wilson-Western Sporting Goods Company.
She also won the 1937 Women’s Western Open and the 1940 Titleholders Championship, which are now two major tournaments on the LPGA tour.
In 1981, Kathy Whitworth was the first female golfer to accumulate $1 million in career earnings.
Four years later, she achieved an incredible score when she won her 88th LPGA tournament at the United Virginia Bank Classic, which established her as having one of the most wins on either the PGA or LPGA Tour.
Despite not competing since 2008, Annika Sörenstam is one of the best golfers in history.
Before retiring from the sport, the Swedish female player won ninety tournaments as a professional, of which seventy-two tournaments on the LPGA Tour, including ten majors and eighteen other tournaments worldwide.
In 2003, she became the first woman since 1945 to compete in a men’s PGA Tour event at the Bank of America Colonial. Annika now stands as President of the International Golf Federation following her election in December 2020—truly inspiring!
Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Creation (LPGA)
A bold vision has become a reality. In 1950, 13 pioneering women, led by Babe Zaharias, Alice Bauer, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Patty Berg Bettye Danoff, Helen Dettweiler, Helen Hicks, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith Shirley Spork, Opal Hill Betty Jameson, Louise Suggs, founded the LPGA with a determined mission to provide professional opportunities for female golfers—which it has continued to do so successfully until this day.
From its educational programs that enrich members’ earning potentials through competitive prizes when they compete—the LPGA stands as an inspiring beacon of hope within golf, offering opportunity and advancement like no other!
Women and Golf in 2023
Today, women’s participation in golf has exponentially increased thanks to the pioneers.
Women in golf have made great strides over the last decade, and in 2023, female golfers are respected members of the international golfing community. Names like Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Lexi Thompson are transforming this sport as their successes pave an enthusiastic path for a new wave of female-led initiatives. Female participation in professional and amateur tournaments continues to rise across all levels of competition, making it clear that women are serious about making a difference in this sport.
Get ready - 2023 promises exciting times ahead for female golfers.
Next time you’re out on the links, remember all these powerful women who first opened the door for other women to enjoy this wonderful game. Want to keep being inspired?
Learn more about Diane Lanctôt, an avid golfer who made her dream come true to create her women’s golf apparel line for active, dynamic, and strong women.