Mary Kathryn “Mickey” Wright, winner of 82 LPGA Tour events and 13 major championships, including a record-tying four U.S. Women’s Opens, died from a heart attack on Feb. 17 in Port St. Lucie, Fla., three days after her 85th birthday.
Wright was regarded as one of the greatest golfers in the game’s history. In a four-year span between 1961 and 1964, Wright won 44 tournaments, including eight major championships. She finished either first or second in more than half of the events she entered during this stretch. World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson called it “the best run anybody has ever had in golf.”
"Mickey Wright was one of the true legends in the history of golf. Her incredible talent, her mystique and her truly remarkable golf swing will continue to inspire future generations," said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. "Mickey made such a positive impact on everyone she met and her kindness, generosity and leadership in women's golf is her greatest legacy in the game."
Wright possessed a swing hailed by legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson as the greatest of all-time – male or female. It combined power, athleticism, rhythm and flowing grace, producing maximum clubhead speed and extension through impact. She was one of the longest hitters of her era, producing high, soaring fairway-wood and long-iron shots that separated her from her peers.
In June 2012, Wright became the first woman – and fourth player – to be honored with her own exhibition room at the USGA Golf Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J., joining Hogan, Bob Jones and Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus became the fifth person to have a dedicated room in 2015. Wright donated more than 200 personal items for the Mickey Wright Room. She also received the Bob Jones Award, the USGA's highest honor, in 2010.
Born Feb. 14, 1935 in San Diego, Calif., Wright first fell in love with golf in 1946 while watching an exhibition match between Nelson and Leo Diegel at San Diego Country Club. She began taking golf lessons from Johnny Bellante, the head professional at nearby La Jolla Country Club, and managed to break 100 there by age 12. She studied the swings of fellow San Diegans and future USGA champions Billy Casper and Gene Littler, who hit practice balls on the same range where Wright was learning the game.
Wright finished as runner-up in the 1950 U.S. Girls’ Junior and won the championship two years later, defeating future U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Barbara McIntire in the final, 1 up, at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach, Calif. In 1954, she was runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and was the low amateur in the U.S. Women’s Open, finishing fourth.
Wright enrolled at Stanford University to pursue a teaching degree, but turned professional in 1954 after one year of college. It proved to be a life-changing decision. Wright finished fifth in her first pro event and won at least one tournament in 14 consecutive seasons from 1956 to 1969.
Wright is the only woman to have owned four major titles at one time. In 1961, she won the U.S. Women’s Open and LPGA Championship, then added the Titleholders Championship and Women’s Western Open the following year.