Mickey Wright, a classic LPGA star who never won a major tournament, but was honored with almost as many second-place finishes, announced her retirement in 1976. She then spent her life traveling the world as a first-class representative of women’s golf, going from Asia to Europe and around the United States to be a pioneer in individual charitable contributions and third-party licensing for Nike.
Wright died on Thursday in Rancho Palos Verdes after a fall. She was 85.
In a statement, LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said: “I’ve always admired Mickey’s presence and iconic personality and her contributions to the world of golf, which transcended her extraordinary talent and made an indelible mark on this game. Her love for this game, team with the likes of Nancy Lopez and a young Billie Jean King, made her invaluable in the world of women’s golf.”
Wright was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2005. At 17, she was the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, in 1950, in Texas. She was runner-up the following year and third the year after that. In fact, Wright finished second 11 times before her rookie season and won only one tournament, the 1955 Ladies European Open, with 23 other titles among her 11 Top 10 finishes.
Still, in 1976, Golf Channel held a gala for a new LPGA player and presented her a new, green Stroke Play jacket. She was so moved she knocked over her dish and spoons and repeatedly said, “Ah, naah, yah, ah.” She still had those dishes in her locker.
Wright’s path to the LPGA was remarkable. Born in December 1926 in Oakton, Va., she joined the Army after high school and took up golf at Fort Bragg near Bragg, N.C. She won two NCAA championships at the University of North Carolina before turning pro.
Wright is survived by her sons, Mark and Tom, both of whom were LPGA stars.
“I remember she and Nancy Lopez together; they were unstoppable,” said Lopez, who was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1990. “Mickey was a beautiful athlete and that was why she had success on the tour.”