From the PGA

Judy Rankin Named Recipient of 2024 PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism

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The PGA of America today named Judy Rankin as the 2024 recipient of the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Rankin and her outstanding career will be celebrated in April during the 50th annual ISPS Handa GWAA Dinner in Augusta, Georgia. 
The PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism recognizes members of the media for their steadfast promotion of golf. Rankin, whose broadcasting career began in 1984, is the 33rd recipient and first woman to receive the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. 
“Judy Rankin is truly an icon in the game of golf,” said PGA of America President John Lindert, Director of Golf at The Country Club of Lansing. “Following a remarkable playing career, Judy has delivered insightful commentary as a broadcaster for nearly four decades. She has made an everlasting impact on the broadcast industry as she paved the way for countless women to follow in her footsteps. On behalf of the PGA of America, I congratulate Judy for an unrivaled broadcasting career and this well deserved recognition.” 
Rankin turned professional at 17 years old in 1962 and claimed the first of 26 career LPGA victories at the Corpus Christi Open in 1968. She topped the LPGA Tour’s money list in 1976 and ‘77 while finishing in the top ten on the money list 11 times between 1965-79. Rankin captured LPGA Player of the Year honors in 1976 and ‘77 and the Vare Trophy on three occasions (1973, ‘76, ‘77) for lowest scoring average in a season. 
She retired from competition in 1983, and later captained the U.S. Solheim Cup teams to victories in 1996 and ‘98. Rankin’s legendary playing career culminated in her induction into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.
The Texas resident, who splits her time between Midland and Lubbock, embarked on her second career in the game in 1984 when she joined ABC Sports as an on-course commentator. She remains grateful to the network for taking a chance on her. 
“I was kind of timid in the beginning and they had patience,” said Rankin. “On-course commentating was very different than it is today. I had the benefit of as on-course commentating found its niche and when the rules changed for how it works, I was there to learn as it grew and I grew.”
Rankin’s rise was unprecedented at the time, as she was the first woman to work full-time on broadcasts of men’s events. This groundbreaking role opened doors for women in the golf broadcasting industry. 
“I do take a certain satisfaction that so many women are accepted in golf and men’s golf today and how good they are,” said Rankin. “Karen Stupples, Kay Cockerill, all these people are just really good. Morgan Pressel is doing a nice job in the role that I had. Last but not least, I took Dottie Pepper to work for the first time with ESPN for a U.S. Women’s Amateur because I thought she could do it. It’s nice to know after the fact that you were right.” 
Rankin continued to hone her craft as an analyst for ABC and ESPN, learning from numerous colleagues who provided guidance, encouragement and developed into close friends. Longtime ABC commentator Bob Rosburg, a Stanford product who “really knew the English language,” was often a sounding board for Rankin. Meanwhile, Jack Whitaker provided valuable guidance surrounding player interviews.
“Jack was really the person who finally made me a decent interviewer,” said Rankin. “He helped me so much because I got to where I enjoyed interviewing people. I could see the rhyme or reason where you go with your interviews.” 
Rankin recalls Whitaker’s reminders to have a first question prepared and then base a follow-up question off the player’s answer. 
“It was very good for me to get those little lessons here and there,” said Rankin. “I know over time it made a difference.” 
Rankin joined GOLF CHANNEL as the lead analyst for its LPGA Tour live tournament coverage in 2010, a position she held until 2022 when she retired from full-time broadcasting. 
Reflecting on her career, Rankin cherishes numerous memories from her time behind the microphone. 
She called Annika Sorenstam’s historic 59 from the booth during the 2001 Standard Register PING at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona. Witnessing players win at Mission Hills was always special due to her history at the famed Rancho Mirage, California Club. Rankin won the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle there in 1976.    
Experiencing and covering golf in Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland was an “amazing thing” for Rankin. She had the lead on-course role and followed Tiger Woods for the majority of his first Open Championship win, at St. Andrews in 2000. Rankin also called Jack Nicklaus’s final round at St. Andrews in 2005. 
“That was an amazing experience because I knew how much he was respected, but now on that particular day you saw how he was really loved,” said Rankin. “There was a standing ovation at every single hole.”
Rankin expressed appreciation for the talented colleagues she worked with over the years, including Curtis Strange, Andy North, Mike Tirico, Terry Gannon and Grant Boone, as well as past work with Roger Twibell and Jim McKay.    
“When you have somebody as good as Mike Tirico and as good as Terry Gannon, they are not just good in their own right, they make you better,” said Rankin. “Whoever is sitting next to me, they make you better. They know what might draw an audience in.
“So many of those people are my great friends. That’s the hard part about retiring is you miss them. There are a lot of laughs in what you do in television also. If you’re with a group where there is a lot of camaraderie, clearly it’s one of the greatest jobs ever.”
Rankin, now 78, worked four events during 2023, including the Solheim Cup, where she reunited with Gannon and longtime friend Juli Inkster. The PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism is her latest accolade following a decorated playing career and an equally impressive tenure in television. For the Hall of Famer, an award in journalism is especially gratifying. 
“Quite honestly I am a little overwhelmed that it’s for journalism,” said Rankin. “It really makes me feel good as though I did something slightly more meaningful than just playing a game. I am really honored that they think there was some journalistic value to what I’ve done all these years.”
For information on the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award and to view past winners, click here.