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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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”