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Judy Rankin voted into Hall of Fame

Judy Rankin, a 26-time winner and the first woman to break the $100,000 barrier, was voted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame on tonight.

Rankin was the first player elected from the tour's new Veteran's Category, which was established in February 1999 when the LPGA revamped its rigid Hall of Fame criteria.

"Judy Rankin represents all that is good about the LPGA and the game of golf," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. "Judy's skill on the golf course, coupled with her commitment to the tour, has contributed greatly to the LPGA's success over the years."

Rankin was twice the player of the year, a three-time winner of the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, and set an LPGA record with 25 finishes in the top 10 in 1977. Six years later, at age 38, she was forced into retirement by back problems.

Still, she remained deeply involved in golf, as an analyst for ABC Sports and ESPN, and as captain of the U.S. team that won the Solheim Cup in 1996 and 1998.

Rankin will be inducted Nov. 20 at the World Golf Hall of Fame along with Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster. The PGA Tour is expected to announce the results of its Veteran's Committee and Lifetime Achievement category later this week.

Rankin, 55, will become the 18th member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. She was in New Orleans, where ABC and ESPN are broadcasting the Compaq Classic on the PGA Tour, and not immediately available for comment.

Rankin never dreamed she could be part of the Hall of Fame when she retired from competition in 1983. The LPGA had the toughest standards in sports, requiring least 30 victories and two major championships, 35 wins and one major, or 40 wins and no majors.

She failed to win a major in her 22-year career, although she won the Peter Jackson Classic in Canada two years before it was designated a major.

The LPGA voted last year to change its criteria, setting a standard of 27 points in which one point was awarded for a victory, two for a major, and one point each for player of the year or a Vare Trophy.

Under that system, Rankin would have qualified easily, with 33 points. But the LPGA also established a Veteran's Category, and the 12-member committee that nominates one player each year selected Rankin in March.

Nominees must receive 75 percent of the vote from the LPGA tournament division.

Players voted at a meeting in Austin, Texas, site of this week's Phillips Invitational. Those not in the field had to get their ballots to LPGA headquarters Monday. LPGA spokeswoman Connie Wilson said Rankin's vote was near unanimous.

Rankin, who grew up in St. Louis, won the 1959 Missouri Women's Amateur as a 14-year-old and joined the LPGA three years later. She won her first event in 1968, the Corpus Christi Open, and won at least once every season in the 1970s.

Her best year was 1976, when she became the first woman to earn more than $100,000 in a year by winning seven times and $150,724. A year later, she won five times and set the record for top-10 finishes.

A former LPGA president, Rankin was awarded the tour's William and Mousie Powell Award in 1998 by the players for having the ideals of the LPGA.

A year ago, she was honored for her contributions to golf with the Patty Berg Award by the LPGA and the William H. Richardson Award by the Golf Writers Association of America. She also received the First Lady of Golf award from the PGA of America.

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