There has not been a more consistent performer or dedicated individual in Ladies Professional Golf Association history than Pat Bradley. This is a woman who made it on course management, patience and dogged determination, who experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and then came back to become the 12th woman enshrined in the LPGA Hall of Fame. “Commitment was the key,” Bradley said. “You can have success, failure, setback and defeat, and rise above it.”
During her prime, Bradley competed in 627 tournaments, posting 312 top-10 finishes, with 208 of those in the top five. She became the first woman golfer to surpass the $2 million (1986), $3 million (1990) and $4 million (1991) marks in career earnings and was the first woman to win all four of the modern major golf championships. In 1986, she won the Nabisco Dinah Shore, the LPGA Championship, the du Maurier and finished fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open, three strokes out of the Jane Geddes-Sally Little playoff.
That was the year that defined Bradley’s career. “I have been a very consistent and very good player, but I really believe that in 1986 I was tapped to be a little bit more distinguished than the other players,” Bradley said. “I think somewhere, someone up above picked me to have a year that will go down in golfing history and will make me just a little more special than other people. I honestly wish everyone could experience what I did in that dream-come-true year. I was invincible.”
"You can have success, failure, setback and defeat, and rise above it."
After every one of her victories, it became a tradition for Bradley's mother to stand on the porch of their home in Westford, Mass., and ring a Swiss cow bell.
Kathleen Bradley rang it and rang it, starting in 1975 when her daughter won the Colgate Far East Open, and ending in 1991 when Pat won for the 30th time to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. The bell was retired and is part of an exhibit at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.
Qualifying for the Hall was a goal of Bradley's father, Richard, who died in 1988. That was the same year that Pat was diagnosed with Graves Disease and had plummeted to 109th on the money list with barely more than $15,000 in earnings. "I had a fear of failing him," Bradley said. "For many years I felt in my heart I was Hall of Fame material, but not in my mind. I was not completing the mission."
Pat Bradley is the only player to capture three of the four modern-day majors in a single season (1986).
Bradley rebounded from the emotional loss of her father and the overactive thyroid in 1989, winning the Al Star/Centinela Classic. Three more victories followed in 1990, then three more in 1991 leading up to the MBS LPGA Classic at Los Coyotes C.C. in Buena Park, Calif. Bradley had won the SAFECO Classic the week before in Seattle and was ready to get it over with.
She started the final round four strokes back, took the lead on Sunday with a birdie at the 13th hole and won by a stroke. When she was told that she had won, Bradley broke down in the scorer's tent and cried. The mission had been completed.
"I may not be up there attracting publicity or may not be a household name," Bradley has said. "I may be far behind in superstar quality, not as acceptable as some others, but in facts and figures, I'm up there with the greats."