Sun, Aug 09, 2015 - Page 18 News List

LPGA founder, Hall of Famer Suggs dies

AP

Louise Suggs plays a tee shot during the Women’s Western Open Golf Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 25, 1946.

Photo: AP

Louise Suggs, an LPGA founder and among the best women to ever play with 61 wins and 11 majors, died on Friday aged 91.

The LPGA Tour said she died in a hospice in Sarasota, Florida, of natural causes.

Suggs was perhaps the most influential player in LPGA history. Along with being one of the 13 founders in 1950, she served as LPGA president three times and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and the LPGA Teach and Professional Hall of Fame.

“I feel like the LPGA lost a parent, but I am extremely confident that her vision, her competitiveness and most importantly her spirit will be with this organization forever,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.

The LPGA Tour rookie of the year award is named after Suggs. She won every season of her professional career and was the first player to capture a career Grand Slam at the 1957 LPGA Championship.

She finished her career with US$190,251 in earnings.

A steady presence at the LPGA’s biggest events, her support of women’s golf never wavered and Suggs never lost her sharp tongue. She was at an LPGA awards dinner in 2007 where Angela Park won the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award by earning US$983,922.

“I wish like hell I could have played for this kind of money, but if not for me, they would not be playing for it, either,” Suggs said.

Her efficient, powerful swing marked her for greatness as a teenager in Georgia. She began to get national acclaim when she won the 1947 US Women’s Amateur, the 1948 Women’s British Amateur and the 1949 US Women’s Open, beating fierce rival Babe Zaharias by 14 shots.

Ben Hogan once said after watching Suggs swing that her swing “combines all the desirable elements of efficiency, timing and coordination.”

“It appears to be completely effortless,” Hogan said. “Yet, despite her slight build, she is consistently as long off the tee and through the fairway as any of her feminine contemporaries in competitive golf.”

Bob Hope once nicknamed her “Miss Sluggs” for how far she could hit the ball.

“Like a parent, she cared deeply for her LPGA family and took great pride in their successes,” Whan said. “She always made time to hear my problems and challenges. Her personal guidance was priceless. Like a parent, I think she was even more proud of the LPGA players of today than she was of her own playing results.”

Born in Atlanta on Sept. 7, 1923, she began playing golf on the Lithia Springs golf course that her father managed. She won the Georgia Women’s Amateur twice, the North and South three times and the Women’s Western Amateur twice.

She was a contemporary of the great Bobby Jones, her idol in Georgia. Long before Annika Sorenstam made headlines for playing on the PGA Tour, Suggs had her own famous competition against the men.

She took part in a 72-hole exhibition on what she once described as an executive course in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1961. It was called the Royal Poinciana Invitational, featuring the likes of Suggs, Patty Berg, Sam Snead and Dow Finsterwald.

Playing 36 holes a day, Suggs wound up winning. Recounting that event in a 2003 interview, Suggs said Snead was irritated that he had finished behind a woman and was needling her.

“I finally said: ‘I do not know what the hell you are bitching about. You were not even second,’” Suggs said.

“Golf is very much like a love affair,” Suggs once said. “If you do not take it seriously, it is not fun, but if you do, it breaks your heart. Do not break your heart, but flirt with the possibility.”

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