Minneapolis’ Patty Berg lights up the links of women’s golf in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, winning more than 80 amateur and professional championships. A founder of the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association in 1948, she is one of 13 charter members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.*
To the author’s recollection, Patty Berg’s name has always been synonymous with competition locally. As a child, she loved football and her neighborhood team, the 50th Street Tigers, fought hard to be the best in South Minneapolis. Bud Wilkinson, one of her teammates, would go on as a stellar coach for Oklahoma during their hot streak in the fifties.**
In her young teens, allegedly, her mother tired of her daughter’s cuts, bruises, and torn skirts. More accurately, she could see Patty’s natural determination, but didn’t like the extra mending work. Her parents found a way out of her football pursuits when she expressed jealousy over her brother’s country club membership. Her father agreed to get Patty a membership to play golf, contingent on a commitment to practice everyday. ***
It wasn’t long before she began competing in amateur events like the Minneapolis City Championship. As a freshman in high school, she entered and lost, but steeled her resolve to practice hard, and won as a sophomore in 1934. The following year she narrowly lost the Women’s Amateur to Glenna Collett-Vare; the woman who most dominated the sport the previous decade. By the time she was 20 years old, she won 75-80% of all events she entered. *****
Below is an excellent synopsis of her professional career and contributions to the sport of golf.
“Berg turned professional in 1940, when there were only a handful of women professionals. Her income was earned doing clinics and exhibitions for Wilson Sporting Goods. For her first victory, the 1941 Women’s Western Open, she received a $100 war bond. Shortly after, Berg was in a car accident that severely injured her left knee. The leg had to be reset twice, but during 18 months away from golf, Berg rehabilitated successfully by working out in the camp of a boxer. After a two-year stint in the Marines, in which she went to cadet school and graduated a second lieutenant, Berg won the first U.S. Women’s Open in 1946, defeating Betty Jameson in Spokane, 5 and 4. In 1948, the LPGA was established, and Berg, along with Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Betty Jameson and Louise Suggs, became the Big Four of the women’s game. Berg, who was also the association’s first president, won three titles that first year. She was the LPGA’s leading money winner in 1954, 1955 and 1957, won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average in 1953, 1955 and 1956 and was three times voted outstanding woman athlete of the year by the Associated Press. She is the first woman to win $100,000 in career earnings. In 1963, the USGA honored her with the Bob Jones Award. Only 5-2 with red hair and a freckled face, Berg was known as a supreme shot maker. Carol Mann called Berg “the most knowledgeable person, man or woman, of different golf shots that I’ve ever known.” According to Mickey Wright, “Patty Berg is the perfect golfer for a woman.” The LPGA honored her by establishing the Patty Berg Award in 1978 which is given to the lady golfer who has made the greatest contribution to women’s golf during the year.” *****
Now we turn to You, the Maker of all games of patience and strategy. Though beyond time, You have imperturbable and undistracted resolve to set up a single moment of meaning within history. Come, help us ponder Your message to us through the life of Patty Berg.
We commence this prayer with the obvious; Patty’s commitment and success as a mentor. We are grateful for teachers who stick with us; like Berg. We are inspired by those who not only convey the lesson, but can demonstrate it with excellence. We will never forget those whose leadership forged new paths; and Berg led multitudes of women into golf. Bravo Lord!
Next, we thank You for gifting her with an imagination for strategy. We thank You for the testimony of her peers that she was “the most knowledgeable person, man or woman, of different golf shots that I’ve ever known.” In this, she is so much like her Heavenly Dad; making impossible shots against impossible odds. May I list a few examples to You?
Abram was a no name man from an obscure place, but You made a name for him by taking the “H” out of Your own, and imparting its greatness to both Abraham and Sarah!
Moses lack of self-control, though incensed by injustice, led to murder, which led to the desert, which led to obscurity, which led to leading animals, which led to the burning bush and the presence of “I Am”, and finally to leading Your people out of Egypt.
It looked like “game over” for the followers of our Messiah. The most powerful religious and political laws condemned Him to death. They were terrified of the power of Rome and the Sanhedrin. Your resurrection emboldened them to wait and pray; seemingly a very passive move to their enemies. Yet, You emboldened these scalawags and cowards with Your Spirit of grace and truth to boldly tell people everywhere of the G-d that came to them, for them, to free them!
We thank You for her example of bravery to her generation of women! Throughout her life, she believed in the capability of women. She believed women: could play football, play golf, endorse sports, do the business of sports well, serve in the Marines, and create a legacy.
You have written of the legacy of brave women in Your Word. We remember to You the faith and actions of these female Biblical heroes: Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, and Queen Esther to name but a few! ****** Will You embolden and give bravery to the women of Minnesota present and future to live courageous lives as they?
Will You forgive the obstacles placed in the way of women in her generation? Will You forgive us, Minnesotans past and present, of limiting or invalidating the thoughts, actions, and dreams of our foremothers? We have shunned Your image insofar as we have shuttered them. Will You forgive and heal our judgments? We call out to You this day our invitation; send us more like Patty Berg?
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** Rippel, Joel. “Patty Berg: Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Class of 1958”, Star Tribune, Minneapolis,MN. Nov. 4 2019. http://www.startribune.com/patty-berg-minnesota-sports-hall-of-fame-inductee-class-of-1958/563308382/