It took Betsy King more than seven seasons to win on the LPGA Tour, but her breakthrough led to one of the most phenomenal careers in women’s golf history. In an 11-year span from the 1984 Women’s Kemper Open through the 1995 ShopRite LPGA Classic, King won 30 times, including five major championships, to become the 14th member of the LPGA Hall of Fame and the first to cross the $5-million barrier in career earnings. She captured her sixth major in 1997, winning the Nabisco Dinah Shore.
King was born in Reading, Pa., and still maintains a home nearby in the town of Limekiln. She has served as host of the LPGA’s Wachovia Betsy King Classic at Berkleigh C.C. in Kutztown, Pa., and has organized the Habitat for Humanity, which has built homes for underprivileged families in Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C. In the off-season, she has traveled to Romania to work with an orphan relief organization and she has been active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministry since 1980.
"My faith gives me perspective."
Her favorite scripture is from 2 Corinthians: “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
It was not easy for King to find peace when she first turned professional. Overshadowed by Nancy Lopez and struggling with the pressure of great expectations-she finished eighth as an amateur in the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open-King found salvation in the Bible and the golf instruction of Ed Oldfield. In 1984, she won three times, the LPGA money title and its Player of the Year Award. Her first major championship came in the 1987 Nabisco Dinah Shore and two years later she had what was one of the most lucrative seasons in LPGA history. With six victories, including the U.S. Women’s Open, King won $654,132. In those five years, her 20 victories were more than any professional golfer, man or woman, in the world.
Avoiding a letdown, King won her second Dinah and made it back-to-back Opens in 1990. Perhaps her most frustrating year came in 1993 when she won the Vare Trophy, the money title and Player of the Year honors, despite winning only one tournament, the season-ending Toray Japan Queens Cup. With the pressure of the Hall of Fame mounting (her 29 career victories left her one shy of induction), she was second five times that year, including the Dinah Shore and du Maurier, where she held third-round leads.
Shut out in 1994 for the first time in 10 seasons, King came back in 1995 with a final-round 67 at ShopRite to qualify for the LPGA Hall. When she won the Dinah in 1997, it served as testimony of her perseverance. It was her third Dinah Shore, matching Amy Alcott’s record, and her sixth major championship, tying her for the seventh on the LPGA’s all-time list with Kathy Whitworth and Karrie Webb and two of her more immediate contemporaries, Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley. “My faith gives me perspective,” King says. “Scripture tells you to forget what is behind and press toward what is ahead, toward the goal to win the prize. The hardest thing is to forget what is behind. I use my faith as my sports psychologist. Why not get it from the guy who knows everything?”