Women's golf has changed dramatically since the Second World War. Until then, the type of golf that had been played by ladies was only a glorified form of pitch-and-putt, and was predominantly amateur.
The proprieties and decorum of the second half of the nineteenth century, when the first women's golf clubs were founded, inhibited behavior on the golf course.
It was, for example considered indelicate to raise the club above the shoulder height, and restrictive clothing severely hampered movement.
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The situation changed with the formation of the Ladies' Golf Union in the UK in 1893 and the creation of the Morristown Golf course and country club in New Jersey (US) in 1894.
The first superstar of British women's golf was Charlotte Cecilia Pitcairn Leitch (nicknamed 'Cecil'), who reached the semi-finals of the British Ladies' Amateur in 1908, at the age of 17.
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She had the old fashioned palm grip with the tumbs around the shaft and was able to hit the ball a long distance. Cecil Leitch dominated the game with ther strong, flat swing, until finally outdone by Joyce Wethered, who had a strongly contrasting game and would win eight titles in the four following years. In the United States, Glenna Collett held an equal supremacy over golf.
In 1949 the Ladies' Professional Golf Association (LPGA) was created in the United States, led by Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias, the most successful female player of the immediate post-war period, winning 17 tournaments in 1946 alone. Only one European player of that period challenged American superiority, Catherine Lacoste of France. In 1967, aged 22, she became the youngest player, first amateur and first overseas player to win the US Women's Open.
Later on, female golf players like Laura Davies, Marie Laure de Lorenzi, Alison Nicholas, Kitrina Douglas, Jane Connachan, Dale Reid, Cathy Panton and Helen Alfredsson added to the progress of women golfers.
In 1990 women professionals established their equivalent of the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, a mixture of foursomes, fourballs and singles.
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The LPGA's list of majors has changed several times over the years, with the last change in 2001, after the du Maurier Classic, held in Canada , was discontinued after that country passed severe restrictions on tobacco advertising. The LPGA replaced the du Maurier Classic on its list of majors with the Women's British Open. The LPGA currently recognizes four majors:
Kraft Nabisco Championship
- U.S. Women's Open
- LPGA Championship
- Weetabix Women's British Open
As in men's golf, three of the majors are played in the United States and one is played in the United Kingdom. The U.S. and British Opens match their male equivalents, and the LPGA Championship is analogous to the PGA Championship, so by default the Kraft Nabisco Championship is the closest equivalent of The Masters. Unlike the men's equivalents, with the sole exception of the U.S. Women's Open, the women's majors have title sponsors.
Seven different events are classified as having been LPGA majors at some time. The number in each season has fluctuated between two and four. The first tournament which is now included in the LPGA's official list of major victories is the 1930 Western Open, although this is a retrospective designation as the LPGA was not founded until 1950.
The "Grand Slam"
No woman has completed a "Grand Slam" by winning four different majors within the same year, but Babe Zaharias won all three majors contested in 1950 and Sandra Haynie won both majors in 1974.
- Western Open: 1930-1967
- Titleholders Championship: 1937-42; 1946-66; 1972
- U.S. Women's Open: 1950-date
- LPGA Championship: 1955-date
- du Maurier Classic: 1979-2000
- Kraft Nabisco Championship: 1983-date
- Women's British Open: 2001-date
Six women have completed a "Career grand slam" by winning four different majors during their career. There are variations in the set of four tournaments involved as the players played in different decades and even centuries. The six career grand slam winners are: Pat Bradley, Juli Inkster, Annika Sörenstam, Louise Suggs, Karrie Webb, and Mickey Wright.
The LPGA recognizes Webb as its only "Super Career Grand Slam" winner, since she is the only golfer to have won all five majors recognized by the LPGA. To win the Super Career Grand Slam, a golfer must have won:
- The du Maurier Classic between 1979 and 2000, when it was recognized by the LPGA as a major;
- the Women's British Open in 2001 or later; and
- the other three currently existing majors.
Webb won the du Maurier Classic in 1999 and the Women's British Open in 2002.
Ladies European Tour
In men's golf, the four majors are all co-sanctioned by the U.S. based PGA Tour and the PGA European Tour, but this is not the case in women's golf. The Ladies European Tour does not sanction any of the LPGA majors which are played in the United States, and only has two events which it designates as majors on its schedule, namely the Women's British Open and the Evian Masters, which is played in France. Thus, unlike men's golf, women's golf does not have a single globally agreed set of majors.
Women's senior golf
Professional women's senior golf is in it's infancy, and does not yet have a roster of majors. The Women's Senior Golf Tour played its first season in 2001.