Betsy Rawls, a four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, died Saturday at the age of 95, the USGA has confirmed. One of the most prolific winners in golf, Rawls transitioned from a playing career to tournament administrator in 1975, impacting the LPGA greatly both inside and outside the ropes.
Rawls won 55 times on the LPGA, including eight majors. Only Kathy Whitworth (88), Mickey Wright (82), Annika Sorenstam (72), Louise Suggs (61) and Patty Berg (60) won more.
“There are simply not many careers that can compare to Betsy’s,” said USGA CEO Mike Whan in a release. “Fifty-five wins, eight major titles, LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, former LPGA president, Bob Jones Award winner. She was a legend in the game who would have been successful in anything she pursued, so we are all lucky she made golf her passion. RIP to a true champion.”
The late Whitworth credited Rawls with turning her game around after she read an article in which Rawls talked about how much harder she worked to shoot 80 than 70. Whitworth, who had a habit of packing it in mentally after a few bad swings, changed her approach after that and went to becoming the winningest player in golf.
“I never gave up again,” she once said.
Rawls shares the record of four U.S. Women’s Open titles with her good friend Wright. They kept up with each other until Wright’s death in 2020.
Rawls, who hit whiffle balls in the back yard into her 90s, didn’t take up golf until age 17 and turned professional not long after earning a degree in physics from the University of Texas. She found the college academic experience helpful when it came to how well she could focus inside the ropes. It’s no wonder Whitworth called her an “excellent thinker.”
Rawls learned the game from Harvey Penick, whose instruction was so legendary he wound up in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
After finishing runner-up to Babe Zaharias at the 1950 U.S. Women’s Open, Rawls beat Suggs by five strokes the following year to claim her first Women’s Open title.
Rawls won the money title in 1952 and 1959, when she won a then record 10 times in one season. She also won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average in ’59.
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