Kathy Whitworth, the legendary golfer who today holds the record for most professional tournament wins on a single tour, has died at the age of 83.
Whitworth, whose rookie season was 1959, won 88 tournaments over her career, her last coming in 1985 at the age of 46. That number has never been equaled by any man or woman in golf. Tiger Woods and Sam Snead have 82 wins on the PGA Tour, though Woods’ 110 wins across all tours is higher.
Whitworth reportedly died while celebrating Christmas Eve at a friend’s house with her longtime partner, Bettye Odle.
“It is with a heart full of love that we let everyone know of the passing of the winningest Golf Professional ever, Kathy Whitworth,” Odle said in a statement. “Kathy passed suddenly Saturday night celebrating Christmas Eve with family and friends. Kathy left this world the way she lived her life, loving, laughing and creating memories.”
Memories and accolades have poured in from around the sports world.
“I had the honor of meeting her,” said tennis legend Billie Jean King. “She loved her sport, and was a trailblazer and a true champion. May she rest in peace.”
“As the LPGA‘s all-time wins, leader, and a total class act, she will be dearly missed,” said golfer Annika Sorenstam. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and close friends. Thanks for setting the bar so high, Kathy.”
“The golf world and the world in general lost one of its most incredible women with the passing of Kathy Whitworth,” LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said. “Kathy was a champion in the truest sense of the word, both on the golf course and off. We all mourn with Bettye, her family and the entire golf world.”
It’s only now that Outsports has become aware that Whitworth was gay. Scanning emails from the last decade-plus, as well as other messages, we simply hadn’t been aware. And we’re thrilled that she was able to find love and live a happy, open life and find such incredible success.
Our thoughts are with Odle and everyone touched by this amazing woman.