Marilynn Smith, founder of LPGA and Tour Champion, dies at 89

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Marilynn Smith, who helped the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950, when the women's game was hardly a blow in the national sports scene and continued to win 21 touring events, including two major championships, died on Tuesday in Goodyear, Ariz. She was 89.

Her death, announced by the LPGA on her website, left Marlene Bauer Hagge and Shirley Spork as the last survivors of the 13 pioneers of the women's tour.

The LPGA said Smith, who would have turned 90 on Saturday, made her last public appearance on March 24 when they left the 18th green at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup tournament in Phoenix

During the first season, the LPGA sponsored a dozen tournaments, with a prize money of just $ 50,000. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an Olympic field and field champion in 1932, and Patty Berg were the main drawers in the beginning, but Smith, and co-founders such as Hagge, Louise Suggs and Betty Jameson, became prominent golf pros.

Last year, the LPGA sponsored 32 events in 13 countries with $ 65.35 million in prize money.

Smith captured the title holder championship of 1963 and 1964, an LPGA major tournament of her era, played at Augusta Country Club in Georgia, adjacent to Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters. She won her first LPGA tournament in 1954 and her last one in 1972.

Smith worked from 1958 to 1960 as an LPGA president and played an important role in founding the educational division of the organization, now known as the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional membership. She gave clinics in the United States and in 37 other countries and was the first woman to be a TV analyst for men's pro-golf tournaments. She worked with ABC at the 1973 United States Open, at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, and the Colonial, in Fort Worth.

She was included in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.

The LPGA was the successor to the Women's Professional Golf Association, which was established during World War II, but was dissolved in 1949 after having suffered financial difficulties. In the early years of the LPGA it also struggled, received little attention in the press or on the radio and had no TV attention.

The women also missed the money to fly, so they traveled to tournaments in caravans of four or five cars when the motorway system on the highway was still in its infancy

When they reached a tournament site, they had to sell their product to the locals. Smith, an exuberant woman who seemed just right for announcing the tour, was nicknamed Miss Personality for her cheerleading.

"We would go to Major League Ball Parks, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Washington, DC, and hit golf balls from home plate to midfield, with a 9 or an iron, and then we stepped on the microphone and asked those baseball fans to watch the LPGA game, "she told the Arizona Republic long afterwards.

The women were also the tournament directors and regulators, and they got results from the news agencies and newspapers. Tournament sites came and went. "We could have one event for one year; the following year it was gone," Smith told The Dallas Morning News in 2000.

Marilynn Smith was born on April 29, 1929 in Topeka, Kan., To Lynn and Alma Smith. Her father was an insurance director.

In her teenage years, Marilynn led and pitched to a boys baseball team. As she once said to "I came home one day and my mother said," Well, how did it go today, honey? "I threw my glove against the wall and said: & # 39; O, -, & # 39; a four-letter word beginning with S that I had learned from the boys on the sandlot. And she marched into the toilet and washed my mouth with soap. "

When her father came home and heard of her outburst, she remembered, he said," We'd better take her to the Wichita Country Club and teach her a more feminine sport. "

Her childhood dream was to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals, but she agreed to take golf lessons from a country club professional. Fascinated by the sport, she won three state amateur championships and the national collegiate golf championship of 1949 as sophomore at the University of Kansas. She then became a pro when the sports company Spalding gave her a contract to promote her equipment at clinics.

Smith received the first Patty Berg Award for distinctive service for women's schools in 1979. In her later years, she sponsored a tournament that raises scholarship money for female high school students who are planning to continue playing golf at the university. Living in Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix, she played recreational until she was about 70, when her knees gave up. There was no direct word about her survivors.

Smith estimated that she had given 4,000 clinics in the United States and abroad. During one of her four trips to New Zealand, she inspired a ten-year-old girl named Marilyn Smith to play golf. In the 1970s, Marilyn Smith became the first pro player from her country to join the LPGA Tour.

"While Marilynn Smith was still one of the founding members, they called me MJ Smith," she once told Wellington Golf, who advises golf clubs near the New Zealand capital. "Although they accidentally sent one of my prize checks to her."

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