We’ve lost the perfect swing.
Hers is a name a lot of golf fans may not recognize in 2020, but Mickey Wright, who died Feb. 17, was a women’s golf legend known for having a swing that could easily be called a “masterpiece” and a “work of art.” She was also one of the most successful LPGA players ever.
“Whenever I talked to the great players like Ben Hogan and Jackie Burke about who they thought had the best swing ever, they always said it was Mickey Wright,” said Jim McLean, a golf teacher based at The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida, in an interview with Golf Digest. “I’m a ‘position’ teacher, and hers are still the best. You can teach with what she does just as easily today as you could 60 years ago.”
Wright, who was 85 years old, won 13 majors and 82 LPGA Tour titles during her career and is second on the all-time majors list behind the 15 won by fellow American golfer Patty Berg, who died in 2006. Her 82 career LPGA victories place her second all-time behind Kathy Whitworth, who has 88.
“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mickey Wright. We lost a legend, but we may also have lost the best swing in golf history today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.” - @LPGACommish Michael Whan— LPGA (@LPGA) February 17, 2020
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Wright’s majors included four U.S. Women’s Open titles (1958, ’59, ’61, ’64), four LPGA Championship wins (’58, ’60, ’61, ’63), three Women’s Western Opens (’62, ’63, ’66) and two Titleholders (’61, ’62).
Her other accolades included 13 victories in a single LPGA season (1963), which is the tour record to this day. She also won 11 times in 1964, which is tied for second all-time with Annika Sorenstam. Wright had four consecutive major championship victories, the current record. Additionally, Wright also holds the record for consecutive Vare Trophy titles for the lowest scoring average, earning them from 1960-64.
Wright retired in 1969 at the age of 34, citing the strain of golf, media, and being in the public eye as the primary reasons for her decision, according to Bill Fields at LPGA.com.
“It was a lot of pressure to be in contention week after week for five or six years,” Wright told Golf World in 2000. “I guess they call it burnout now, but it wore me out. Unless you’re a golfer, you can’t understand the tension and pressure of tournament play. And it was the expectations: It was always, ‘What’s wrong with your game? ‘Are you coming apart?’ Second or third isn’t bad, but it feels bad when you’ve won 44 tournaments in four years.”
But Wright’s play in women’s golf helped bring attention to the game that was still growing in its early decades.
“Mickey gave the LPGA credibility in the area of skill and competence,” said Betsy Rawls in Rhonda Glenn’s book The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf. “No one would ever doubt, after seeing Mickey, that women could be great golfers.”
Beyond the wins and records, Wright will always be known for her near-perfect swing, called “the finest golf swing I ever saw” by Ben Hogan, according to Randall Mell at the Golf Channel.
Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson described her swing as the best they ever saw.@GCMorningDrive's @Paige_Mackenzie and @RobertDDamron break down the legendary swing of the incredible Mickey Wright pic.twitter.com/YoGmhbVyYW— LPGA (@LPGA) February 18, 2020
Wright was named the “female golfer of the century” by the Associated Press in 1999. In 2011, the USGA opened the Mickey Wright room in its museum, making her the first woman to have a collection opened in her honor at the institution and just the fourth player ever.
Wright is enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, the LPGA Hall of Fame and the PGA of America Hall of Fame.