The 20 greatest women golfers of all time

By T.J. Auclair
Published on

There's always going to be a spirited debate whenever the topic of "greatest of all time" in anything comes up.
For the purposes of this story, we'd like to discuss the merits of -- arguably -- the 20 greatest women golfers of all time. 
Not everyone will agree with all 20 who are on this list, or even the order.
But, we think it's a solid, solid list. 
20. Sandra Haynie
Majors won: 4 (1965, 1974 Women's PGA Championship; 1974 U.S. Women's Open; 1982 du Maurier Classic)
LPGA victories: 42
Notes: Haynie was just 18 years old when she joined the LPGA in 1961. A year later, she won for the first time at age 19. It would be the first victory of many for Haynie. From 1963-1975, Haynie finished every season inside the top 10 on the money list.
19. Lorena Ochoa
Majors won: 2 (2008 ANA Inspiration; 2007 Women's British Open)
LPGA victories: 27
Notes: Ochoa joined the LPGA in 2003 and retired to start a family in 2010. What happened in those seven years she did play, however, is the stuff of legend. In April 2008, Ochoa won her second major championship, this time at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, becoming the first golfer to win consecutive LPGA majors since Annika Sorenstam in 2005. She won in her home country of Mexico one week later by a whopping 11 strokes. In her short career, Ochoa was a four-time LPGA Player of the Year and won the money list title in three consecutive seasons -- 2006, 2007 and 2008.
18. Meg Mallon
Majors won: 4 (1991 Women's PGA Championship; 1991, 2004 U.S. Women's Open; 2000 du Maurier Classic Won)
LPGA victories: 18
Notes: Mallon joined the LPGA in 1987 and enjoyed a breakout season in 1991, winning four times -- two of those were majors. Mallon played for the United States in the Solheim Cup eight times: in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2005 and she served as an assistant team captain in 2009. She was the team captain in 2013.
17. Betsy Rawls
Majors won: 8 (1952, 1959 Western Open; 1959, 1969 Women's PGA Championship; 1951, 1953, 1957, 1960 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 55
Notes: Rawls joined the LPGA in 1951 and won her first tournament that year -- Sacramento Women's Invitational Open. She led the tour in wins three times: 1952 with eight, 1957 with five (tied with Patty Berg), and 1959 with 10. Six of Rawls' eight major wins came in the 1950s.
16. Beth Daniel
Majors won: 1 (1990 Women's PGA Championship)
LPGA victories: 33
Notes: A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Daniel won 33 times in her LPGA career, including one major -- the 1990 Women's PGA Championship. Before turning pro in 1978, Daniel enjoyed a successful amateur career, highlighted by winning the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1975 and 1977. When Daniel won the 2003 Canadian Open at age 46 years, 8 months and 29 days, she became the oldest winner in Tour history. 
15. Se Ri Pak
Majors won: 5 (1998, 2002, 2006 Women's PGA Championship; 1998 U.S. Women's Open; 2001 Women's British Open)
LPGA victories: 25
Notes: A pioneer of the women's game, Pak is credited with changing the face of golf. When she joined the LPGA in 1998 -- a year in which she won two majors -- Pak was the only Korean player on Tour. Ten years later, there were 45 Koreans on the LPGA. In June 2007, at age 29, she qualified for the World Golf Hall of Fame, surpassing Karrie Webb as the youngest living entrant ever.
14. Amy Alcott
Majors won: 5 (1983, 1988, 1991 ANA Inspiration; 1978, 1988 Women's PGA Championship; 1980 U.S. Women's Open; 1979 du Maurier Classic)
LPGA victories: 29
Notes: Alcott, the LPGA's Rookie of the Year in 1975, won her first tournament as a professional in just her third start. It was a sign of things to come. On three occasions in her special career -- 1979, 1980, and 1984 -- Alcott won at least three times in a season. In 1980, along with winning four times, Alcott also finished second five times and was in the top 10 in 21 out of 28 tournaments played on her way to winning the LPGA Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
13. Juli Inkster
Majors won: 7 (1984, 1989 ANA Inspiration; 1999, 2000 Women's PGA Championship; 1999, 2002 
U.S. Women's Open; 1984 du Maurier Classic)
LPGA victories: 31
Notes: You want to talk about longevity? Inkster's impressive career has spanned 29 years and counting. Her 31 LPGA wins are second-best among active players. Inkster is the only golfer in LPGA Tour history to win two majors in a decade for three consecutive decades by winning three in the 1980s, two in the 1990s, and two in the 2000s. In 2019, Inkster will serve her third consecutive stint at the U.S. Solheim Cup captain. In her first turn at the helm in 2015, Inkster guided her team to a historic come from behind victory in Germany. The team trailed 10-6 going into the final day, but rallied for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 win.
12. Louise Suggs
Majors won: 11 (1946, 1947, 1949, 1953 Western Open; 1946, 1954, 1956, 1959 Titleholders Championship; 1957 Women's PGA Championship; 1949, 1952 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 61
Notes: Suggs, one of the founding members of the LPGA, was also one of the most successful players in the Tour's history. From 1950 to 1960, Suggs only once finished out of the top 3 on the season-ending money list. Suggs was an inaugural inductee into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, established in 1967, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1979.
11. Patty Sheehan
Majors won: 6 (1996 ANA Inspiration; 1983, 1984, 1993 Women's PGA Championship; 1992, 1994 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 35
Notes: Sheehan's fantastic LPGA career began with Rookie of the Year honors in 1981. Among her most notable accomplishments on the course came in 1992. That year, Sheehan became the first woman to win both the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open in the same season. Sheehan was a member of five Solheim Cup teams and captained the squad twice -- 2002 and 2003. 
10. Patty Berg
Majors won: 15 (1941, 1943, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1957, 1958 Western Open; 1937, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1953, 1955, 1957 Titleholders Championship; 1946 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 60
Notes: A founding member of the LPGA, Berg is also the record-holder for most majors won in the women's game with 15. She turned pro in 1940 after winning 29 times as an amateur. Berg also won the inaugural U.S. Women's Open in 1946. Three of her major victories came in her amateur days. Interestingly, Berg volunteered for the United States Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1942. She served Marine Reserves from 1942 to 1945.
9. Pat Bradley
Majors won: 6 (1986 ANA Inspiration; 1986 Women's PGA Championship; 1981 U.S. Women's Open; 1980, 1985, 1986 du Maurier Classic) 
LPGA victories: 31
Notes: Bradley was a multiple major winner long before her nephew, Keegan, won the 2011 PGA Championship. Pat Bradley was the third woman, behind Mickey Wright and Louise Suggs, to have completed the LPGA "Career Grand Slam." In 1986, Bradley won the du Maurier Classic, Nabisco Dinah Shore and LPGA Championship -- three of the four majors at the time.
8. Betsy King
Majors won: 6 (1987, 1990, 1997 ANA Inspiration; 1992 Women's PGA Championship;1989, 1990 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 34
Notes: Beginning in 1984 (three wins), King won at least one LPGA event in 11 consecutive seasons. The highlight came in 1989 when King won six times. She averaged a major a year from 1987 to 1992, then won a sixth major in 1997. The last of her 34 LPGA wins came in 2001. 
7. Karrie Webb
Majors won: 7 (2000, 2006 ANA Inspiration; 2001 Women's PGA Championship; 2000, 2001 U.S. Women's Open; 1999 du Maurier Classic; 2002 Women's British Open)
LPGA victories: 41
Notes: Webb's 41 LPGA victories are the most of any active player on Tour. In 1996, Webb won her first tournament in just her second LPGA start. That season, she became the first LPGA player to reach the $1 million mark in a single season, topping the year-end money list. She was also the 1996 LPGA Rookie of the Year. To date, Webb's last LPGA victory came at the JTBC Founders Cup in 2014.
6. JoAnne Carner
Majors won: 2 (1971, 1976 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 43
Notes: Carner is the only woman to have won the U.S. Girls' Junior, U.S. Women's Amateur, and U.S. Women's Open titles, and was the first person ever to win three different USGA championship events. Tiger Woods is the only man to have won the equivalent three USGA titles. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Carol Semple Thompson have also won three different USGA titles. In 1971, Carner easily won the Women's U.S. Open, finishing seven shots better than Kathy Whitworth who finished in second, In 2004, Carner became the oldest player to make a cut on the LPGA Tour at age 65
5. Nancy Lopez
Majors won: 3 (1978, 1985, 1989 Women's PGA Championship) 
LPGA victories: 48
Notes: Lopez's first season on the LPGA -- 1978 -- is as impressive a rookie campaign as you can imagine. During that season, she was victorious nine times, including a major. On top of that, Lopez was the LPGA Rookie of the Year and LPGA Player of the Year in 1978. Lopez's career saw some breaks when she welcomed three children, but in each return, she managed to continue her winning ways. Lopez is the only woman to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978).
4. Kathy Whitworth
Majors won: 6 (1967 Western Open; 1965, 1966 Titleholders Championship; 1967, 1971, 1975 Women's PGA Championship)
LPGA victories: 88 (1st all time)
Notes: The U.S. team captain at the inaugural Solheim Cup match in 1990, no player in history has more LPGA victories -- 88 -- than Whitworth. That's also six more wins than Sam Snead's record of 82 on the PGA Tour. In 1981, Whitworth was the first player in LPGA history to reach the $1 million mark in career earnings. Whitworth won the St. Petersburg Open five times. She's one of only four LPGA golfers to have won the same tournament five times.
3. Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Majors won: 10 (1940, 1944, 1945, 1950 Western Open; 1947, 1950, 1952 Titleholders Championship; 1948, 1950, 1954 U.S. Women's Open) 
LPGA victories: 41 
Notes: Babe isn't just one of the greatest golfers of all time, but one of the greatest athletes of all time. Before her LPGA career even began, Zaharias won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics. Zaharias had her greatest year in 1950 when she completed the Grand Slam of the three women's majors of the day: the U.S. Open, the Titleholders Championship, and the Women's Western Open, a feat that made her the leader on the money list that year. Also that year, she reached 10 wins faster than any other LPGA golfer, doing so in one year and 20 days, a record that still stands.
2. Mickey Wright
Majors won: 13 (1962, 1963, 1966 Western Open; 1961, 1962 Titleholders Championship; 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963 Women's PGA Championship; 1958, 1959, 1961, 1964 U.S. Women's Open)
LPGA victories: 82
Notes: Wright's 82 LPGA victories are the second-most in LPGA history. Wright began her amazing LPGA career in 1955. Ben Hogan was said of Wright's swing that it was the best he'd ever seen. In an eight-year period between 1958-1966, Wright won all 13 of her major championship titles. That's second all time behind Patty Berg's record of 15.
1. Annika Sorenstam
Majors won: 10 (2001, 2002, 2005 ANA Inspiration; 2003, 2004, 2005 Women's PGA Championship; 1995, 1996, 2006 U.S. Women's Open; 2003 Women's British Open)
LPGA victories: 73
Notes: The winner of a record eight Player of the Year awards, and six Vare Trophies given to the LPGA player with the lowest seasonal scoring average, Annika Sorenstam is the only female golfer to shoot a 59 in competition. After winning eight times on the LPGA Tour in 2001, Sorenstam followed it up with an incredible 11 wins in 2003. In 2003, Sorenstam teed it up alongside the men at the PGA Tour's Colonial Tournament, making her the first woman to play in a Tour event since 1945.
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