“She was bound to be a winner,” Ben Hogan once said of Louise Suggs. “And she was.”
No truer words have been spoken in describing the first female inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Suggs won a U.S. Amateur, a British Amateur, two U.S. Women’s Opens, an LPGA Championship and a Vare Trophy. In all, she won 61 LPGA tournaments, including 11 major championships.
Overshadowed only by the popularity of Babe Zaharias, Suggs won often and in record-setting ways. In the 1949 Women’s Open, she set the 72-hole scoring record of 291 and won by 14 strokes over Zaharias, which stood alone as an LPGA record until Cindy Mackey matched the total at the 1986 MasterCard International. Four years later, Suggs broke her own LPGA scoring record by shooting 288 to win the 1953 Tampa Open at Palma Ceia.
“Golf is very much like a love affair, if you don't take it seriously, it's no fun, if you do, it breaks your heart. Don't break your heart, but flirt with the possibility.”
In the foreword to Suggs’ book, Par Golf for Women, Hogan wrote: “If I were to single out one woman in the world today as a model for any other woman aspiring to ideal golf form it would be Miss Suggs. Her swing combines all the desirable elements of efficiency, timing and coordination. It appears to be completely effortless. Yes, despite her slight build, she is consistently as long off the tee and through the fairway as any of her feminine contemporaries in competitive golf. And no one is ‘right down the middle’ any more than this sweet-swinging Georgia miss.”
Born in Atlanta, Suggs had the benefit of growing up in a golf environment (her father, John, a former pitcher with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Crackers, owned and managed a golf course). She won the Georgia State Amateur in 1940 and 1942, the Southern Amateur twice, the Western Amateur twice and the North and South three times. She won the Titleholders, which was then considered a major championship, as an amateur in 1946 and followed that with the U.S. and British Amateurs in 1947 and 1948, respectively.
Louise Suggs drove around with license plate that read, “Teed Off”.
With nothing left to accomplish on the amateur level, Suggs turned pro and made her first victory the record-setting performance over Zaharias in the Women’s Open. It was an especially sweet victory for Suggs, who resented the tremendous publicity given to Babe. It was because of Babe, however, that sponsors became interested in ladies golf, and with the help of golf promoter Fred Corcoran, Suggs, Zaharias, Patty Berg, Marilynn Smith and Betty Jameson helped found the LPGA in 1950. Berg was the first president and she was succeeded by Suggs from 1955-1957.
Sadly, Suggs’ career came to an end over a matter of principle. In 1962, she was fined $25 for failing to play in an event in Milwaukee that she signed up for. Feeling wronged, she never played a full schedule again. “She was at the height of her career and in her prime when she quit,” said Betsy Rawls, who was president of the LPGA at the time. “It was hard for me to understand that kind of thinking. I would have paid for her myself, although the money was nothing to Louise. I forever regretted it for her, and I thought it was one of the saddest things in the LPGA history.”