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LPGA Women Who Played on the PGA Tour

by M.L. Rose

    While there is no rule against women playing in PGA Tour events, only a few have attempted the feat and, as of 2012, no female golfer has succeeded in finishing a men’s tour event. Several women in the early 21st century did make headlines by competing against the men, but the first to try it was Babe Didrikson Zaharaias in 1938.

    Babe Zaharias

    A tremendous all-round athlete, Babe Didrikson Zaharias was a basketball star, and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics. She then enjoyed a highly successful golf career, winning 55 tournaments. She also helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1949 and was later inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. She first qualified for a men’s professional golf tournament, the Los Angeles Open, in 1938. She played the event again in 1945, becoming the first woman to make the 36-hole cut in a men’s tour event. She did not make the tournament’s third-round cut, after shooting a 79.

    Annika Sorenstam

    Annika Sorenstam was one of the greatest golfers in LPGA history, winning 72 tournaments. In 2003, she was invited to play in the 2003 Colonial in Ft. Worth, Texas, receiving a sponsor’s exemption to the PGA Tour event. With a couple of exceptions she received a positive reaction from the male pros, and was greeted enthusiastically by fans on the course. Sorenstam shot a 1-over-par 71 in the first round, during which she tied for first in driving accuracy but was 84th in driving distance, averaging 269 yards. She shot 74 the second day and missed the cut. "I came here to test myself,” she said after the tournament. “I'm proud of the way I was focusing and proud of the decisions I made and that I stuck to them. And that's why I am here. I wanted to see if I could do it." Sorenstam received more invitations, but declined to compete in any more PGA Tour events.

    Suzy Whaley

    Club pro Suzy Whaley won the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA tournament, which qualified her to play in the men’s 2003 Greater Hartford Open. Whaley’s accomplishment was controversial because she played from the forward tees in the sectional. In effect, she played a 6,239-yard course while the men’s course was 6,938 yards long. The PGA of America later ruled that golfers must play from the back tees to qualify for tour events. But Whaley was permitted to play -- from the men’s tees -- in the Hartford event, where she shot 153 for two rounds and didn’t make the cut.

    Michelle Wie

    As a teenager, Michelle Wie was determined to compete with male golfers. She played in eight PGA Tour events between 2004 and 2008 but didn’t make any cuts. In her first try, at the 2004 Sony Open in Hawaii, the 14-year-old Wie shot even-par 140, including a second-round 68, the lowest score ever posted by a woman in a PGA Tour event. Wie also tried to qualify for the 2006 men’s U.S. Open, at age 16. She shot 68 in the first round of a qualifying tournament, but soared to a 75 in the second round for a 36-hole total of 143, five shots shy of reaching a playoff for one of the 18 available spots.

    About the Author

    M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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