Far Hills, N.J. – The United States Golf Association Museum has accepted a collection of more than 200 personal artifacts from four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Mickey Wright.
The collection is the Museum’s first to honor the career of a prominent female golfer and will be displayed in a newly created Mickey Wright Room in the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J. The room is scheduled to open in June 2012. Joining galleries that honor Bob Jones, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, it will be the Museum’s first gallery dedicated to a woman.
“Mickey Wright was one of the premier players in the history of the game and her golf swing was ranked by many as the greatest of all,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “Mickey won four U.S. Women’s Open titles by the age of 30, which strengthened her close ties to the USGA. We’re delighted she has chosen to house the artifacts of her wonderful career in our museum.”
“Words cannot convey my feelings of joy, pride and gratitude to the USGA for the honor of having a room in their Museum,” said Wright. “I’ve been enshrined in halls of fame and memorialized at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament, but this is a here and now and forever feeling that honors not just me, but the history of women’s golf. This is also for all the women who came before me, the Patty Bergs, Louise Suggses and Betsy Rawlses. It’s a tribute to their tenacity in making women’s golf a legitimate, recognized national sport.”
Born Feb. 14, 1935 in San Diego, Calif., Wright emerged on the national scene when she was runner-up in the 1950 U.S. Girls’ Junior. In 1952, she was co-medalist and went on to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior. After finishing as runner-up in the 1954 U.S. Women’s Amateur, she turned professional and soon dominated women’s professional golf.
Between 1957 and 1968, Wright captured 79 of her 82 career victories while competing against legendary players such as Rawls, Suggs, Berg, Kathy Whitworth and Sandra Haynie. She won the U.S. Women’s Open four times (1958, 1959, 1961 and 1964), joining Rawls as the only four-time champions, and she remains the only four-time winner of the LPGA Championship (1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963).
Wright is the only golfer to have held four women’s major titles at one time. She won the U.S. Women’s Open and the LPGA Championship in 1961, and in early 1962 she won the Titleholders Championship and Women’s Western Open. In 1999, Wright was named the top female golfer of the 20th century by the Associated Press.
She ranks her four U.S. Women’s Open victories and her U.S. Girls’ Junior title as her highest achievements.
“The USGA has been a big part of my life since 1950 when I played in my first Girls’ Junior,” Wright added. “To win five of their championships, the U.S. Girls’ Junior and four Women’s Opens, has always been my most cherished accomplishment in golf. My only regret was not being able to win a fifth Women’s Open. Someday, perhaps, someone will.”
Wright’s powerful, beautifully rhythmic golf swing was later described as the greatest ever by Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. It was that swing that attracted fans to the LPGA Tour after the 1956 death of crowd favorite Babe Zaharias. Over the next decade, Wright became the public face of the LPGA, and spectators turned out to watch her – to the point that tournament sponsors threatened to cancel events if Wright did not play. In the early 1960s, she played in as many as 33 events a year to appease tournament backers.
Wright thrived on competition, winning 10 tournaments in 1961, 10 in 1962 and 13 in 1963, still the all-time LPGA Tour record for victories in one season. After winning 11 tournaments in 1964, Wright cut back her schedule and returned to college. The hiatus was brief. She resumed full-time competition in 1966 but in 1970 began making only limited appearances. She emerged from retirement in 1973 and, wearing tennis shoes because of a foot ailment, won the prestigious Colgate-Dinah Shore Championship at the age of 38.
The collection of Wright’s artifacts includes medals, trophies, awards, photographs, clothing and films from her career. Of particular distinction is the 1955 Bulls-Eye putter she used in winning 81 of her 82 official career victories, including 13 major championships. The putter was a gift to Wright from the late Mary Lena Faulk, 1953 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
The 1963 Wilson Staff golf clubs that Wright used for 32 years are also featured in the collection. Wright used these woods and irons from 1963 through her last senior event in 1995, and she recorded all but one of her victories (the 1973 Colgate-Dinah Shore) with them.
Wright’s artifacts also include a silver trophy for winning the 1952 U.S. Girls’ Junior; the 1963 and 1964 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year awards; a glass obelisk presented to her as the only four-time winner of the LPGA Championship; silver trophies for winning the 1961 and 1964 U.S. Women’s Opens, and the champion’s trophy from the 1964 Tall City Open, where she set a competitive LPGA record with a round of 62. An action photograph shows Wright during her second round of 62, in the Bluegrass Invitational at Hunting Creek Country Club in Louisville, Ky., in 1967.
A small trophy honors Wright’s first hole-in-one, at age 12. Plaques and proclamations recognize her inductions into the World Golf Hall of Fame, LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, Stanford University Sports Hall of Fame and California Golf Writers Association Hall of Fame. A medal commemorates her selection as the honoree for the 1994 Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
A contestant’s badge from the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open is a memento from Wright’s pairing as a young amateur with Babe Zaharias, the champion. Wright finished fourth at age 19. Autographed magazines featuring Wright on the cover include a 1962 Sports Illustrated, a 1963 Golf Digest and 1954, 1955 and 2000 Golf World magazines.
The collection notably includes 25 scrapbooks compiled by her friend Peggy Wilson. The scrapbooks feature clippings, letters and the newspaper series “Lessons from Mickey Wright,” her nationally syndicated column.
A treasure trove of her personal films traces the development of Wright’s golf swing. They include footage of Wright as a junior golfer, as a young player taking lessons from teaching professional Harry Pressler, as a rookie professional in 1955, as a performer in LPGA golf clinics and as the winner of championships, including the 1958 LPGA Championship and the 1959 U.S. Women’s Open. Several of her home movies show Ben Hogan, as well as Rawls, Berg and other LPGA pioneers.
“The Mickey Wright Room is indicative of our continuing effort to preserve and celebrate golf history, and all golfers will be inspired by this tribute to one of the game’s finest players,” said Davis.