Berg shared her love for golf and blazed the way for other women.
Patty Berg, a Ladies Professional Golf Association founding member who competed against the boys on south Minneapolis sandlots 70 years before Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie did so on the mens pro tour, died Sunday. She was 88.
Inducted into more than a dozen Halls of Fame, owner of a record 15 LPGA major championships, Berg established womens professional golf with a missionarys zeal and a playing record that included 28 amateur and 60 pro career victories.
Long before there was a recognizable tour schedule, and for years afterward, she traveled the world conducting clinics and exhibitions, sometimes outfitting local schoolchildren with baseball mitts so they could shag her shots during accurate ball-striking demonstrations.
The LPGAs former tour stop at Keller Golf Course was named for her.
So is the tours award that recognized outstanding contributions to womens golf, an honor whose recipients include Dinah Shore and LPGA legends Betsy Rawls, Kathy Whitworth, Pat Bradley, Sorenstam, even Berg herself.
She died early Sunday at a Fort Myers, Fla., hospice. Berg announced in December 2004 that she had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimers disease.
She was a pioneer, an athlete, a mentor, a friend and an entertainer, LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said in a statement. I, along with the entire LPGA family, mourn Pattys passing, but we will forever celebrate her legacy.
Born in Minneapolis in 1918, raised on Colfax Avenue, Berg quarterbacked a boys sandlot football team called the 50th Street Tigers when she was a girl. Her teammates included Bud Wilkinson, a future Gophers football star and later a legendary coach at the University of Oklahoma. She gravitated to such a position of leadership, she joked decades later, because she was the only one who could remember the plays.
We didnt have any tight ends or wide ends, we only had loose ends, she said in 1999. We didnt lose any games, just teeth.
Her father, Herman, bought her brother a city course golf pass when she was 14. Just because she was a girl, she told her dad, was no reason she shouldnt have one, too. The first time she swung a hickory-shafted club he handed her, the club head went flying off one way, the ball went another way. The next day, he bought her a set of steel-shafted clubs.
I think my dad didnt want me to break anything else, she said.
From there, she broke or, more accurately, blazed golf records. Berg won the Minneapolis city championship when she was 16, the state amateur not long after that, the U.S. Womens Amateur when she 20.
She might have won even more had she not missed nearly four years early in her pro career, first because of a car accident and then because of a 2½-year enlistment in the Marines during World War II. She is enshrined in the U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.
Berg is one of three Minnesotans to win the U.S. Womens Open. She was the first, in 1946. Luvernes Jerilyn Britz won in 1979. Edinas Hilary Lunke did so in 2003.
Twenty-two of Bergs 60 pro victories including eight of her 15 major championships came before she and 12 other members founded the LPGA in 1950. She was the organizations first president and was the fledgling pro tours leading money winner three times in the mid-1950s.
Bergs earnings for one pro victory early in her career was a $100 war bond. The LPGAs leading money winner has earned $1.8 million this season and Wie, the games gender-busting teen sensation, signed endorsement deals believed to be worth $10 million when she turned pro.
Im sure the LPGA eventually would have developed, said Warren Rebholz, the Minnesota Golf Associations former longtime executive director. But without her foresight and that of a couple other individuals, itd be 15 or 20 years behind where it is now. There were no child phenomenons, no foreign players and the purses were very, very small back then. There wasnt anybody else like her. She was an institution in womens golf.
Berg moved from Minnesota long ago and lived in Fort Myers the final years of her life. Asked seven years ago what she might have done differently in life, she answered, Oh, nothing. I couldnt be this lucky twice. Funeral arrangements are pending.
|Seattle - LP: C. Furbush||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Smith||10|
|Tampa Bay - LP: J. Lueke||5||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: R. Dickey||7|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson||6||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: P. Strop||4|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||4||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: S. Marcum||3|
|Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels||1||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: A. Sanabia||5|
|Minnesota - LP: K. Correia||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||5|
|Oakland - WP: B. Colon||9||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: J. Lindblom||2|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw||3||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo||1|
|Boston - LP: J. Lester||4||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - WP: D. Axelrod||6|
|Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie||5||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: D. Keuchel||6|
|Arizona - WP: P. Corbin||5||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: J. Garland||1|
|St. Louis - LP: S. Miller||2||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: J. Marquis||4|
|Washington - LP: Z. Duke||0||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong||8|