Lexi Thompson made history on Thursday (Oct. 12) when she teed off at the 2023 Shriners Children’s Open – she was given a sponsor exemption less than two weeks ago and was looking forward to inspiring a new generation. In doing so, she became just the seventh female to ever compete in a PGA Tour event.
Thompson ended up scoring a 37 (+2) on the front 9 and a 36 (E) on the back 9 on Thursday (Oct. 12) – ending the first round at 73 (+2) and a couple of shots behind the projected cut line. She then scored a 34 (-2) on the front 9 and 35 (E) on the back 9 on Friday (Oct. 13) – ending the second round with a 69 (-2).
Unfortunately, her 142 (E) wasn’t enough to make the cut – which hovered around 1-under and 2-under par most of the day, but ended at 139 (-3). She was three strokes short, but she held her own and played better than most – nearly three dozen male golfers shot over par and the worst score was 156 (+14).
Can You Name the 6 Other Females Who Have Played on the PGA Tour?
What Lexi Thompson did this past week was nothing short of historic – it’s something only six other female golfers can say they’ve done and will likely pave the way for more women to earn an opportunity of their own. It’s moments like these that make us excited about what the PGA Tour has in store for us.
“Just to be able to come here and follow my dreams, something that I’ve wanted to do, playing against my brothers growing up. And all the guys were so welcoming, so I’m grateful for that,” Thompson said. “It’s the best feeling, just seeing the amount of kids that were out there screaming, ‘Lexi, Lexi. Go, Lexi.'”
Like we do often here at At the Buzzer, we’re going to take a closer look at the history that was made this past week to commemorate what we had the honor of witnessing and what it could potentially mean for the future. With that said, let’s take a look back at the seven females to appear in a PGA Tour event!
1. Babe Didrikson Zaharias – 7 appearances (1935-1946)
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the first female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – doing so at the 1935 Cascades Open. She, unfortunately, missed the cut with an 88 in the first round and an 86 in the second round, but that didn’t stop her from trying again – she went on to compete in six more PGA Tour events.
She also competed in the 1937 Chicago Open (forced to withdraw) and missed the cut at the 1938 Los Angeles Open, but ended up making the 36-hole cut at the 1945 Los Angeles Open (before missing the cut for the final round) – making her the first (and only) female golfer to make a cut in a PGA Tour event.
Didrikson didn’t stop there. She went on to make the cut at the 1945 Phoenix Open and the 1945 Tuscon Open – making the cut not once, but three times in 1945. Her last time competing on the PGA Tour came at the 1946 Los Angeles Open (her third time competing in the event), but Babe failed to make the cut.
For those who don’t know who Babe is, she’s widely regarded as the greatest female athlete of all time. She not only excelled in golf, but she played professional basketball, baseball, and track and field – she won two Olympic gold medals (hurdles and javelin) and earned 41 wins (10 majors) on the LPGA Tour.
2. Shirley Spork – 1 appearance (1952)
Shirley Spork was the second female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – roughly 17 years after Babe Didrikson Zaharias paved the way and nearly seven years after Babe’s final PGA Tour appearance. She earned a sponsor exemption in the 1952 Northern California-Reno Open – a tournament that had no cut.
The tournament was held at Washoe Golf Course in Reno, Nevada. Spork ended up shooting a 77 in the first round, an 80 in the second round, a 77 in the third round, and an 80 in the fourth round – finishing the tournament with a 314 and in 105th place. It went down as the only PGA Tour appearance of her career.
Spork had an interest in golf in high school, but her parents wouldn’t let her. It wasn’t until 1945 – when she started attending Michigan State Normal College (Eastern Michigan University) – that she started to play competitively. She won the national individual intercollegiate golf championship two years later.
She went on to graduate from college in 1949 and started playing professional golf in 1950 – she was one of 13 women who came together in 1950 to create the LPGA Tour. She never gave up the game of golf and continued to play into her 90s. Shirley Spork died in Palm Springs on April 12, 2022 at 94 years old.
3. Annika Sorenstam – 1 appearance (2003)
Annika Sorenstam was the third female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – 51 years after Shirley Spork. She earned a sponsor’s exemption in the 2003 Bank of America Colonial (now known as the Charles Schwab Challenge) – shooting a 71 (+1) in the first round and a 74 (+4) in the second round.
She shot her first birdie on the 13th hole in the first round and had another birdie on the 2nd hole the following day. While she received a lot of support – both online and in-person at the event – there were some PGA Tour players (like Vijay Singh) who took exception to her not having to qualify for the event.
Sorenstam went on to lead all players in driving accuracy and ranked in the top 20 in greens in regulation, but ranked just 84th in driving distance and dead-last in putting. Despite missing the cut and admitting to being nervous during the tournament, she was pleased with her performance and so were her supporters.
Annika Sorenstam turned professional in 1992 after two years of collegiate golf at the University of Arizona – she has 97 career wins, including 72 wins on the LPGA Tour (3rd-most all-time) and 17 on the Ladies European Tour (5th-most all-time). She also won 10 major championships in her incredible career.
4. Suzy Whaley – 1 appearance (2003)
Suzy Whaley was the fourth female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – the very same year as Annika Sorenstam. She qualified for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open after winning the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship and ended up shooting a 75 (+5) in the first round and a 78 (+8) in the second round.
She opened the first round with a double-bogey on Hole 1 in the first round and was +6 through the first 17 holes, but she ended the day on a high note – tallying her first birdie of the tournament on Hole 18. She then opened the second round with a birdie, but went on to shoot 9 over par in the final 17 holes.
Whaley finished the tournament with a 153 (+13), but missed the cut by 13 strokes. ”I wish I could explain to you how it feels to have that many people cheering for you all day long for two days straight. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world, and it keeps you going,” she said after the second day of the event.
Suzy Whaley played collegiate golf at the University of North Carolina, but has spent most of her career as a club pro – only enjoying a brief stint on the LPGA Tour. She later became the first female officer of the PGA of America in 2014 and became the first woman president of the PGA of America in 2018.
5. Michelle Wie West – 8 appearances (2004-2008)
Michelle Wie West was the fifth female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – less than a year after Suzy Whaley took center stage at the Greater Hartford Open. She earned a sponsor’s exemption at the 2004 Sony Open at the age of 14 years old – becoming the youngest female golfer to play in a PGA Tour event.
She ended up shooting a 72 (+2) in the first round and a 68 (-2) in the second round, but missed the cut by one stroke. She missed the cut again at the 2006 Sony Open, but again had a round of 68, which is still the lowest score ever by a female in a PGA Tour event – and to think she did it all at just 16 years old!
Wie went on to earn a sponsor’s exemption eight times on the PGA Tour before she retired earlier this year – her eight appearances are the most by a female in PGA Tour history. She also became the first female golfer to compete at a USGA national men’s tournament at the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Michelle Wie West turned professional in 2005 when she was 16 years old and went on to earn five wins on the LPGA Tour in her iconic career – including one major win at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. She was the Laureus World Newcomer of the Year in 2004 and won the Rolex Annika Major Award in 2014.
6. Brittany Lincicome – 1 appearance (2018)
Brittany Lincicome was the sixth female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – roughly 10 years since Michelle Wie West last appeared on the tour. She earned a sponsor’s exemption in the 2018 Barbasol Championship and went on to shoot a 78 (+6) in the first round and a 71 (-1) in the second round.
Her first round started off well and she was -1 through the first six holes, but things started going downhill after that – which included a triple-bogey on the 7th hole and a double-bogey on the 18th hole. She was better in the second round and went on to have five birdies, six bogeys, and an eagle at the 17th hole.
She became just the second female golfer to break par at a PGA Tour event with her 71 (-1) in the second round. That performance came just a few months after she won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic for the second year in a row – it was her eighth career LPGA win, but she has yet to win a tournament since.
Lincicome turned professional in 2004 after playing in more than 100 amateur events. She earned her first LPGA Tour win on July 9, 2006 at the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship and went on to win seven more times – including two major wins at the Chevron Championship in 2009 and 2015.
7. Lexi Thompson – 1 appearance (2023)
Lexi Thompson was the seventh female to ever appear in a PGA Tour event – roughly five years after Brittany Lincicome made her PGA Tour appearance. She earned a sponsor’s exemption at the 2023 Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, NV and, while she didn’t make the cut, she played rather well.
She shot a 37 (+2) on the front 9 and a 36 (E) on the back 9 to end the first round with a 73 (+2) – not exactly inside the projected cut line, but definitely still in the race. She followed that up with a 35 (E) on the front 9 and a 34 (-2) on the back 9 to end the second round with a 69 (-2) and a 142 (E) all together.
Thompson was just six strokes off the cut line, but it came after she had one of the best rounds by a female golfer at a PGA Tour event. She had two birdies, two bogeys, and five pars on the front 9 of that second round and followed it up with three birdies, one bogey, and five pars on the back 9 – impressive!
Thompson turned pro in 2010 and already has 15 wins in her career – including 11 wins on the LPGA Tour, two wins on the Ladies European Tour, and one major win at the 2014 Chevron Championship. She was also a runner-up at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 Women’s PGA Championship.
Other Female Golfers We’d Like to See on the PGA Tour
When thinking about what female golfers we’d like to see on the PGA Tour, it makes sense to want the best of the best going head-to-head. With that being said, who wouldn’t love to see Lilia Vu make a PGA Tour appearance at some point in the near future – after all, she is the current world No. 1 female golfer.
Nelly Korda – who won a gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and was a member of Team USA at the 2023 Solheim Cup – is another good choice. She’s currently ranked No. 4 in the world and her last win came at the Pelican Women’s Championship in 2022 – Lexi Thompson was the runner-up.
The rest of the top-10 in the world includes Ruoning Yin (No. 2), Jin Young Ko (No. 3), Celine Boutier (No. 5), Hyo-Joo Kim (No. 6), Minjee Lee (No. 7), Charley Hull (No. 8), Xiyu Lin (No. 9), and Allisen Corpuz (No. 10). It would be cool to see all these women get their shot at the PGA Tour at some point!
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