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Rankin, Martin honoured by Golf Writers Association of America

Rankin, Martin honoured by Golf Writers Association of America

Judy Rankin -- a former LPGA star and current ABC commentator -- and Nike Tour player Casey Martin won a pair of prestigious awards given by the Golf Writers Association of America.

The 53-year-old Rankin, who captained the winning Solheim Cup teams in 1996 and 1998, won the GWAA's William D. Richardson Award, given annually to someone who has consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf.

Martin, 26, won the Ben Hogan Award, given to an individual who has continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.

Martin, who was born with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, a debilitating disease that has affected his right leg, was one of the top newsmakers of the year after winning his federal court battle with the PGA Tour.

Rankin and Martin will be honoured at the annual GWAA Awards dinner April 7 in Augusta, Ga.

Rankin edged Augusta National members Tom Cousins, the Atlanta developer who rejuvenated the East Lake Golf Club and surrounding area, and Charles Yates, long-time secretary of Augusta national and chairman of the Masters press committee. The two tied for second in the balloting.

Martin, who has been an outstanding player at every level of the game, won a decision in February allowing him use of a cart on the Nike Tour and he won the first Nike event of 1998.

Martin, who also finished tied for 23 at the U.S. Open, is one of just 1,000 people world-wide who suffer from the disease. His battle and subsequent success drew attention to barriers for the disabled.

Senior tour Player Jim Colbert, who returned to the tour following surgery for prostate cancer and won $1.12 million in 1998, finished second in the voting.

Rankin, a Texas native and member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, has been an ambassador for the game through her role with ABC.

As spokeswoman for Lilly Legends, Rankin has been an advocate of women's health issues.

She had two of the most impressive seasons ever recorded on the LPGA Tour in 1976 and 1977.

While serving a two-year term as president of the LPGA, Rankin won a pair of Player of the Year awards, two Vare Trophies and was the tour's leading money winner both seasons.

In 1976, she became the first LPGA player to earn more than $100,000 in a season. In 1973, she set a tour record for top-ten finishes in a calendar year -- 25 -- a mark which still stands.

Chronic back problems in the late 70s led to her retirement from tournament golf in 1984.

She has been with ABC Sports since '84.

Past recipients of the Richardson Award, named for The New York Times' William D. Richardson who was instrumental in the founding of the GWAA in 1946, include: Babe Zaharias, Ben Hogan, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, Patty Berg, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Harvey Penick, Peggy Kirk Bell, Frank Hannigan, Kathy Whitworth and Lee Trevino.

Former Hogan award winners are Trevino, John Mahaffey, Jim Nelford, Ken Venturi, Terri-Jo Meyers, Paul Azinger, Steve Jones and Pat Browne.

In addition to Rankin and Martin, the GWAA, which has more than 840 members, will also honour their Players of Year -- Mark O'Meara, Se Ri Pak and Hale Irwin -- at the dinner.