Nov 17

Mickey Wright: A Room of Her Own

If there’s a young golfer out there who doesn’t know who Mickey Wright is, or what she did with and for the game of golf, shame on you. In golfing legacy terms, she’s your grandmother, and she was a pretty great grandmother at that. In ignoring that fact, you’ve answered the whine of every high school and college student who complains about studying history.

Back in the infancy of the LPGA, Mickey Wright dominated the world of women’s golf for most of an era with eighty two tour victories and a passel of amateur trophies mixed in. Yes, it was a long time ago, but we should make no mistake about it. We’re not talking about a dusty old relic whose birthday rolled around, obligating a toast to an old warrior who has entirely lost her relevance. What we are talking about is a seventy six year old woman who could probably still beat you, and a woman who’s still breaking down the walls of gender bias.

Yes, Mickey’s still at it – perhaps not on tour, although she still hits a mean driver off her patio in Florida. She’s being honored by the USGA, which in itself is special enough. Many deserving golfers have been honored by the Association, but this is still more than that. In donating over two hundred pieces of personal golf memorabilia, Wright (who states plainly that she’s not the sentimental type) is the recipient of her own room in the USGA Manor.  At the center of golf’s presiding institution, there’s going to be a Mickey Wright Room.

She is only the fourth player to be honored in this way, and the only woman. There’s the kicker. Young women who are avid golfers should take note – Mickey Wright is the only woman to be honored in this way, and we’re well into the year of 2011. Many believe that Mickey Wright was, hands down, the greatest female player ever, and this kind of honor is a symbol of an ever-increasing respect for the LPGA, its tour and its players.

Mickey’s room, four hundred square feet of it, will be situated next to Arnold Palmer’s room. She once inferred that Palmer’s swing disgusted her, and that he wouldn’t have won much of anything if he hadn’t been “strong as an ox.”  The Mickey Wright Room will sit not far from Ben Hogan’s, the man who thought hers was about the best swing he’d ever seen. Also not far away is the Bobby Jones Room, the namesake for the award she won, the highest one given in golf. It’s not irrelevant to mention that Bobby knew a good swing when he saw it, too.

Polishing the silver at Mickey’s house must have become quite a job over the years, so it was logical that a lot of trophies, from amateur triumphs to a U.S. Women’s Open cup, in which she was paired with Babe Didrikson, would find their way to the temple in New Jersey. She even gave them the bulls-eye putter with which she won all but one of those tournaments (Apparently, she used a different one to come out of retirement and win the Dinah Shore). The Hall-of-Famer also parted company with twenty five scrapbooks. That one sounds particularly difficult.

Well, on one hand, hats off to the USGA. On the other hand, what took you so long? In terms of both technique and fame, Mickey Wright was the Tiger of her time. It is fitting that she was honored by Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial Tournament, which makes me think that the Association is just backlogged, and will eventually catch up. After all, where’s the Jack Nicklaus room?

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