Kathy Whitworth, the most successful professional golfer in history, has died at the age of 83

Kathy Whitworth
Kathy Whitworth

“The golf world, and the world in general, lost one of its most incredible women,” the LPGA Commissioner said in a statement.

Kathy Whitworth, who won more US Tour golf tournaments than any other pro golfer, died on Sunday at 83, according to the LPGA.

Her longtime partner Bettye Odle said in an LPGA release that the Texas-born golfer died suddenly on Saturday night while celebrating Christmas Eve with loved ones.

“Kathy left this world the way she lived her life, loving, laughing, and making memories,” Odle wrote of her late partner, whose signature swing was still in use in November.

According to CNN, the Hall of Famer had 88 LPGA Tour victories, second only to Sam Snead (who died in 2002) and Tiger Woods (both of whom have 82). In 1981, she became the first female professional golfer to earn a million dollars.

Whitworth told the World Golf Hall of Fame, into which she was inducted the following year, that she “would have traded being the first to make a million for winning the Open,” according to PBS.

“But it was a consolation that softened the blow of not winning,” she added. Whitworth, who debuted in 1959, was also known for her legendary rivalry with Mickey Wright, which the LPGA described as “the game’s greatest rivalry.”

“Mickey was the greatest golfer,” said Louise Suggs, founder of the LPGA. “However, Kathy was the big winner.”

Billie Jean King, who Whitworth beat out for AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1965 (and won again two years later), mourned Whitworth’s death on Twitter.

“I had the honour of meeting her,” wrote King. “She adored her sport and was a true trailblazer and champion. May she find peace.”

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