Hall of Famer, LPGA founder Suggs dies at 91

By Randall MellAugust 7, 2015, 9:29 pm

Louise Suggs, one of the giant talents and mighty spirits in women’s golf, died Friday. She was 91.

The winner of 61 LPGA titles, 11 of them major championships, Suggs was more than one of the greatest players in the history of the women’s game. She was one of its most important pioneers, a leader whose strong will was instrumental in laying the foundation of women’s professional golf.

One of the LPGA’s original 13 founders, Suggs helped create the tour in 1950 and was one of the six inaugural inductees into the LPGA Hall of Fame. She served as the LPGA president from 1955-57. The LPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award is named after her.

The honors kept rolling in for Suggs, long after she retired from the game. Earlier this year, she was named one of the first seven women the Royal & Ancient Golf Club admitted as members, ending that organization’s 260 years of exclusive male membership.

An LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, Suggs died from complications of melanoma, Golf Digest reported.

Photos: Louise Suggs through the years

Born Mae Louise Suggs in Atlanta on Sept. 7, 1923, she started playing golf at 10 years old when her father first put a club in her hands. Her father, John, was a former pitcher for the New York Yankees who built, owned and managed a golf course in Lithia Springs, Ga.

“By the time I was 15 years old, I had gone slightly nutty about golf and was spending every minute on the golf course,” Suggs once said.

By 16, Suggs was the Georgia State Amateur champion. She would go on to dominate the women’s amateur ranks, garnering much attention in 1946 when she won the Titleholders and the Western Women’s Open, both of which were considered major championships at the time. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1947 and the British Ladies Amateur in ’48 before turning pro.

As feisty as she was skilled, Suggs made an impression just about wherever she played.

Ben Hogan marveled watching her play as his teammate in a “Pro-Lady” event before the Chicago Victory Open in in 1945.

“A model for any other woman aspiring to ideal golf form,” Hogan once wrote.

Sam Snead fumed after Suggs won the Royal Poinciana Invitational at the Palm Beach Golf Club’s par-3 course in 1961, beating a dozen male pros that included Snead. She did so from the same set of tees the men played.

“He didn’t like it very much,” Suggs once said. “He burned rubber on his car leaving the parking lot.”

Suggs’ peers were often bowled over by her competitive spirit.

“Louise was definitely one of the greats,” Betsy Rawls once said. “She had tremendous drive and was almost neurotic, like most of our great players who seemed to have a lot to prove. Winning was everything to her, and like Mickey Wright and Patty Berg, she couldn’t tolerate losing.”

Bob Hope, the actor/comedian, had a special name for Suggs. He called her “Miss Sluggs” after watching her slam long drives in an exhibition while playing alongside her.

One of the early stars of women’s golf, Suggs won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1949 by 14 shots. Babe Zaharias, who was Suggs’ bitter rival, was runner up. The margin of victory remains a U.S. Women’s Open record.

“Babe was a little upset after that,” Suggs said years later. “She said, ‘Are you sure you counted all your strokes?’ Oh, I did.”


Louise Suggs with Stacy Lewis during the 2013 LPGA Founders Cup. (Getty Images)

Suggs won the U.S. Women’s Open again in 1952, that time by seven shots.

“When I had someone down, I put my foot on her throat,” Suggs said.

Suggs named a beloved poodle “Damit” and used to drive a car with a specialty license plate that read: “Teed Off.” The feistiness evident captured the nature of the spirit that helped Suggs battle Zaharias and Berg in the LPGA’s early years.

“Someone once asked me whether Babe, Patty and I got together to figure out who was going to win each week,” Suggs once said. “My answer was, ‘Have you ever seen three cats fight over a plate of fish?’”

Suggs and Zaharias, the most famous female athlete of the time, were two of the greatest rivals in the history of women’s golf.

“I don’t think I ever got the recognition I deserved because of her,” Suggs said upon being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1979. “She was so flamboyant, she put pressure on me. She was all fire and fall back and flail at it and grunt. But she was spectacular ... Course, I never had any trouble with Babe. She just spoke her mind and I’d speak mine and we’d go our way.”

As competitive as they were, Suggs, Zaharias and Berg teamed together to help build the LPGA. They barnstormed across the country from one golf tournament to the next, unsure what their future held. The founders did just about everything getting tournaments set up, from marking hazards, setting hole locations and managing pairings to scorekeeping. They did their own marketing, too, putting on teaching clinics and making appearances at everything from local minor league baseball games to local civic organization meetings.

“The girls on tour now, they don’t have any idea how hard it was,” Suggs once said.

Suggs’ 61 career LPGA titles rank fourth on the all-time list behind Kathy Whitworth (88), Mickey Wright (82) and Annika Sorenstam (72). Patty Berg  has 60 wins. Her 11 major championship titles rank third behind Berg (15) and Wright (13). Suggs won eight LPGA titles in 1953 and was the tour’s leading money winner that year. She also won the tour’s money title in 1960 and claimed the Vare Trophy for low scoring average in 1957.

Having grown up in Atlanta, Suggs used to watch fellow Georgian Bobby Jones practice. She said it helped her try to absorb his rhythm. Hogan noticed after playing with Suggs in that Pro-Lady event Chicago.

“The swing she showed in 1945 was a beautiful thing – so smooth and rhythmic, so soundly joined together – she was bound to be a winner,” Hogan once wrote.

Suggs won as much for every woman playing professional golf today as she won for herself with her devotion to building the LPGA and women’s professional golf.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.