A Great Who Never Knew It

By George WhiteMay 21, 2002, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: The Memorial Honorees Ceremony will be show live on The Golf Channel Wednesday May 22 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
I never knew Kathy Whitworth during the years when she was the most dominating player on the LPGA Tour. But I would guess her personality was the exact same when she was winning 88 times as it is now ' reserved, extremely polite, humble, modest beyond belief.
A lot of the current generation of golf fans didnt know her, either. That will be rectified at the Memorial this week when she and the late Bobby Locke are the honorees. To see this great - if modest - lady honored is sweet, indeed.
I was around her in the 80s and 90s. It was in the 60s and 70s that she was walking all over the LPGA, winning just about every time she brushed her teeth. It makes no difference, though, when she was winning and when she finally stopped winning. Class never fades, and Kathy Whitworth had it in abundance.
It will come as a surprise to most of us that Whitworth once had a weight problem. As a golfer, she was tall (5-feet-9) and slender. She remembers, though, when she was a junior Roseanne instead of a little Nancy Reagan.
I was big enough to carry that bass drum in high school, Kathy says with a laugh. I was 5-feet-7 and weighed 215 pounds.
She went on a stringent diet, though, and lost 40 pounds in five months. Since then she has lost even more weight. Now she weighs just 145, which is 60 pounds below her weight in high school. That type of dedication, however, has been her trademark throughout her adult career.
Whitworth began playing at the relatively advanced age of 15. She must have been a natural ' in three years time, she won the first of two successive New Mexico state amateur championships.
She was the daughter M.C. Whitworth, who owned a hardware store in Jal, N.M. Her father, Hardy Loudermilk (the pro at Jals nine-hole course), and two Jal businessmen fronted her $5,000 a year for three years. She was to return 50 percent of the prize money she earned.
She went on tour with her mother. The two found expenses ran about $150 a week (this was 1959, remember), and Kathy wasnt making any money.
It was terrible, recalled Whitworth in a Golf Digest interview. I wanted to quit, but mother and father talked me out of it. I didnt know any of the other girls, and I felt they didnt want me around.
Mother was as scared as I was after I found I couldnt step right in and win. Sometimes Id cry and feel sorry for myself, and she try to buck me up. Then shed cry and Id try to comfort her.
Finally, six months after she started, Whitworth won a prize - $33 ' for finishing 16th at Asheville, N.C. Ill never forget that day as long as I live, she said.
Still, it was two years before she finally won. That was the 1962 Kelly Girl Open, and when it rained, it poured. Before it finally ended, in 1985, she had established a win record that is seven more than the PGA Tours mark ' 81 by Sam Snead.
Kathy returned to enter the Chrysler-Plymouth Tournament of Champions in 1995, by request of the LPGA. She has a quiet pride, however, and after a first-round score of 80, she wanted to drop out. The most prolific player in womens golf sat by herself in an upstairs corner of the clubhouse, not content just merely to be on parade for the gallery. She was 54 years old, yet if she had a club in her hand, she felt she had to be in contention.
I dont know why you want to talk to me, she said with a nervous little laugh. She never thought that people are tremendously interested in what she had to say, regardless of what her final score was.
By the way, she continued playing, and she shot in the 70s her next three rounds. She also defeated three of her much younger opponents that week.
Whitworth went through another financial crises around 1990. She ' and a lot of other professional athletes ' had sunk most of her money in a business venture called Technical Equities. It turned out to be fraudulent, and Whitworth lost most of her nest egg. Kathys playing career was virtually over and she had no means by which to recoup the $300,000 she lost.
Her only income consisted of an equipment contract with Wilson, fees for writing for a womens golf magazine, and an instructional booklet. She consequently had to sell her Fort Worth home that she had planned for her retirement.
Im not destitute, she said at the time, but when I think of all the money that got away
So she started all over, giving lessons, teaching at a golf school in West Columbia, Texas. She lent her name expertise to a brand of golf clubs. And today, she is back on her feet again.
She is like an aunt to everyone, this lady who never seems to have a bad day. She is honest to a fault, answering every question put to her, yet never bad-mouthing. She is just Kathy. The golf world is much better for her presence.
Getty Images

After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

Getty Images

Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

Getty Images

Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

Getty Images

Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry