Western golf groups honor two legends

The Western Golf Assn. and the Women’s Western Golf Assn., now in partnership, are honoring two of the greats of the game.

The WWGA named Mickey Wright this year’s Woman of Distinction honoree at a luncheon on Thursday at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe. The award was first passed out in 1994 when another LPGA legend, Patty Berg, was honored. The award is given bi-annually and other past winners include Louise Suggs, Betty Jameson, Peggy Kirk Bell, Wiffi Smith, Nancy Lopez, Carol Mann and Kathy Whitworth.

Wright won the Women’s Western Open in 1962, 1963 and 1966. The tourney was discontinued after the 1967 tourney, but the WWGA is considering reviving the event – once one of the women’s annual major championships – in some form.

Now 77, Wright was unable to receive the award but sent her thanks for the honor.

“This has been quite a year for me,’’ she wrote. “I apologize for not being there in person to tell you how honored and appreciative I am to receive this award. First to have the USGA honor me with “The Mickey Wright Room’’ at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J., and now the icing on the cake with your Woman of Distinction award.’’

Wright won 82 tournament titles, second all-time behind Whitworth’s 88. She also won the Vare Trophy five times (1960-64) and is the only player in LPGA history to hold all four major titles at the same time. She won the final two majors in 1961, the U.S. Women’s Open and LPGA Championship, and then took the first two majors of 1962 – the Titleholders Championship and the Western Open.

In 1994 she finished second in the Sprint Senior Challenge, which earned her $30,000 – the biggest paycheck of her career.

The WWGA also welcomed in a new set of officers, headed by president Kim Schriver of Glen View Club. Other officers are Pat Stahl Cincinnati, first vice president; Sandra Fullmer, Eagle Ridge, second vice president; Cynthia Hirsch, Lake Shore, third vice president; Diane Kalthoff, Knollwood, secretary; and Judy Anderson, Glen View, treasurer.

Meanwhile, the Western Golf Assn. is preparing for its Nov. 9 Green Coat Gala at Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel. The event, already sold out, raised $350,000 for the Evans Scholars last year when Curtis Strange was the honoree and guest speaker. This year the spotlight will be on Tom Watson, a three-time winner of the Western Open.