Top 10 Women's Personalities
By John Garrity
"I didn't join the tour to be in a chorus line," Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth told GOLF Magazine in 1981. She was addressing the issue of LPGA players posing for cheesecake photos, but her words echoed two decades later, when then LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw promulgated his Five Points of Celebrity Performance, Approachability, Passion and Joy, Appearance and Relevance.Here's our list of women golfers, past and present, who score the highest on the Votaw scale.
10. Juli Inkster
Nobody celebrates better than Inkster, whether it's a ferocious fist pump over her winning putt at a major (she's won seven) or a match-winning hop and howl at the Solheim Cup. She doesn't just wear her heart on her sleeve she wears her flag, her alma mater, her husband, her kids, her neighbors, her sponsors, and maybe even her favorite detergent. "In seventh grade I was a cheerleader, because it was the feminine thing to do," she says. "Hated it." Oh, really?
2 of 9Robert Sorbo/AP
9. Catherine Lacoste
She was "Catherine the Great" in 1967 when she became the first foreigner and first amateur to win the U.S. Women's Open. She was also the youngest, at 22, and the most continental, being the daughter of French tennis star and sportswear magnate Rene "Crocodile" Lacoste. Excitable and sometimes overwrought, Catherine emoted over every shot and was an enigma to her peers, but she definitely had style. "Miss Lacoste blazed across women's golf," wrote Rhonda Glenn, "fiery as a meteor."
8. Patty Sheehan
She did a cartwheel across the 18th green when she won the last of her six majors, the 1996 Kraft Nabisco Championship ... and then she took the traditional plunge into the pond. So you didn't need to see Sheehan, left, in her colorful plus fours to peg her for an extrovert. Said Sheehan, "I just tell myself, 'Relax, Bozo. If you can't have fun, you shouldn't be out here.'"
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5. Laura Davies
A big English gal with a huge appetite for life, Davies has crammed five decades worth of fun into a 22-year pro career. The longest hitter in women's golf for much of her career, she anticipated John Daly's grip-it-and-rip-it approach. Reckless play has probably cost Davies a few titles she has 68 world-wide wins, including four majors but a play-it-safe Laura wouldn't be half as entertaining. Davies also collects cars, plays pro soccer with men, risks the odd pound at Ladbrokes, and guzzles Guinness like a Dubliner.
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7. Barbara Romack
One of the first fashion plates in women's golf, Romack had a rich dad who kept her in bright cashmere sweaters and silk Bermuda shorts. But the flamboyant blonde from Sacramento was more than a clothes horse. She capped a great amateur career with an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated (April 16, 1956), and she managed to squeeze in a friendship with President Dwight Eisenhower and a few dates with Bing Crosby. Romack later served a term as LPGA president, proving that there was substance beneath the flash.
5 of 9John Bazemore/AP
6. JoAnne Carner
She won five U.S. Amateur titles as JoAnne Gunderson, earning the nickname "The Great Gundy." But she's better remembered as "Big Mama," the fun-loving, earthy, long-driving Hall of Famer who turned pro late, at 30, and still won 43 LPGA events, including two U.S. Opens. Once, when making the dubious claim that a Yankees manager had taught her how to win, Carner said, "The only thing I never learned from Billy Martin was how to knock a guy out in a bar."
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4. Amy Alcott
She'll be remembered as the Hall of Fame golfer who made total-immersion baptism obligatory for winners of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. A mischievous free-spirit whose off-the-course endeavors included gourmet cooking, paint-throwing, and a part-time job in a Santa Monica bakery, Alcott won 29 LPGA events, including five majors. She also could do a spot-on impression of Edith Bunker singing "Those Were the Days". (Alcott said, "I want to come back in my next life as a Solid Gold Dancer.")
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3. Patty Berg
Nobody gave more clinics and exhibitions than Berg, a wholesome, freckled redhead who could deliver hammy jokes with a vaudevillian's timing. Patty could also play, as evidenced by her 60 LPGA wins and three-time selection as AP Female Athlete of the Year. "She has done more to promote golf," said fellow Hall of Famer Betsy Rawls, "than any person in the history of the game."
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2. Babe Didrickson Zaharias
Treated as a freak for her raw athleticism and unladylike ways, Babe embraced the challenge of living up to her myth. She won two golds and a silver in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, was an all-American basketball player, pitched spring-training innings for the St. Louis Cardinals, won sewing competitions, sang and played harmonica on records, and capped her career by taking up golf and winning 82 amateur and pro tournaments, including three U.S. Women's Opens. Asked if there was a game she didn't play, Babe famously replied, "Yes. Dolls."
9 of 9Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1. Nancy Lopez
Likeability is usually associated with losers Miss Congeniality, anyone? but Lopez conquered golf with a jerry-rigged swing and a dazzling smile. And she came along in the seventies, when the LPGA desperately needed an appealing star. Like Arnold Palmer, Lopez commanded the biggest galleries and made headlines whether she won or lost. "Nancy didn't just arrive on the tour, she burst upon it," writes golf historian Rhonda Glenn. "She had more pure charisma than any player since the Babe, and the game to go with it."More Photos:
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