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Patty Berg dies aged 88

Patty Berg, the golf pioneer who won an LPGA Tour-record 15 major titles and was one of the 13 founding members of the tour in 1950, died Sunday. She was 88.

She died at Hope Hospice in Fort Myers, Fla., of complications from Alzheimer's disease, the LPGA Tour said.

Berg was the LPGA Tour's first president, serving from 1950-52, and was the money leader in 1954, '55 and '57. The Minnesota native ended her career with 60 victories and is a member of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.

"I was very sorry to hear that," Annika Sorenstam said at the LPGA Tour event in Broken Arrow, Okla. "Patty has done a lot for golf and especially for women's golf, to be one of the founders. I think we'll miss her dearly.

"I remember the last few years, I've seen her do clinics. She was quite hysterical, with a great sense of humor, and a pioneer. I think we're all going to miss her, but most of all, I just want to say thanks for everything she has done."

Berg, The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1938, '43 and '55, won the 1938 U.S. Women's Amateur and swept the 1937-39 Titleholders as an amateur for her first three major victories. She served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and went on to win the 1946 U.S. Women's Open. She won the Titleholders four more times and was a seven-time winner of the Women's Western Open.

"She was really an original. There will be only one Patty," former LPGA Tour star Sandra Post said Sunday at the Canadian Open. "She was famous for her clinics and started doing that during the war years. And she didn't she just hit shots. She was an entertainer and really funny. Patty was the whole package.

"Think about what she saw, from the war, through the years with the Babe (Zaharias) and all the way into the time when the tour was on TV. She was still playing up until the '80s. She was very active and vibrant until the last couple of years."

Berg was a top all-around athlete before turning to golf in her teens. She even quarterbacked a sandlot football squad called the "50th Street Tigers" that featured former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson, a neighbor and longtime friend.

"If it weren't for her I wouldn't have been interested in the game," said Cristie Kerr, the tournament winner Sunday. "I thought about that on the first tee this morning, and I was sad to hear that she has passed. She led a very blessed, a great, long life, and her contribution to the game will be forever commendable."

"Those founders of the LPGA, all of the players, we do not begin to thank them enough every day for what they've done for us and the game of golf."

The LPGA created the Patty Berg Award in 1978 for outstanding contributions to women's golf, an award she won in 1990. Berg and the other LPGA founders also were honored in 2000 with the Commissioner's Award.

"Patty was a wonderfully talented woman who was dedicated to golf, to growing the game and to making the sport fun for golfers of all ages," LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. "She was a pioneer, an athlete, a mentor, a friend and an entertainer. She had a sense of humor that sparked a smile in all who met her."

Berg, also a member of the All-American Collegiate Hall of Fame and the University of Minnesota Women's Athletic Department Hall of Fame, was the honorary chair for the 2002 Solheim Cup at her home course, Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn.

"I think she's going to be remembered as just one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of golf, for women's golf, and just a tremendous talent," Interlachen head pro Jock Olson said. "We may not be where we are today if it wasn't for Patty Berg."

September 11, 2006


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