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Judy Rankin

Judy Rankin: The name rings a bell for all golf enthusiasts around the globe. With an illustrious career and an illustrious personality to match, Rankin truly redefines the spirit of this pristine sport.

Born in February 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri, Judy Torluemke Rankin carved out a niche for herself in the male-dominated golfing world. Introduced to golf at a tender age of six by her golf-instructor father, Rankin already had a remarkable handicap of five by the time she turned 13.

Rankin’s early professional career was as promising as her amateur exploits. Turning pro in her teens, she celebrated her first victory at the Corpus Christi Civitan Open in 1968. Two more victories in the very next year, at both the Kings River Open and the Ladies’ PGA Championship, cemented her place in the golfing universe.

Remarkably, it was in the 1970s that Rankin shot to unprecedented fame. She clinched a total of six victories in 1976 alone, three in 1977, and an impressive four in 1978. During these years, Rankin’s gameplay was like an unparsed narrative that flowed flawlessly with every swing.

Rankin transcended the constraints of her time, becoming the first professional player on the women’s tour to earn more than $150,000 in a single season, an achievement she realized in 1976. In the same year, she was awarded the LPGA Player of the Year, marking yet another milestone in her ilustrious career.

However, notwithstanding her brilliant performances, Rankin’s journey so far was not without its challenges. In 1983, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a revelation that temporarily stalled her flourishing career. Ever the fighter, Rankin took a brave stand against the disease and emerged victorious. Today, she’s considered a symbol of perseverance and resilience for all women on and off the course.

On bouncing back onto normal life, Rankin enjoyed success as a television analyst, an unheard feat for a woman golfer back then. She began her work as a broadcaster full time in 1984, inspiring millions with her insightful commentary.

Her contribution to golf did not stop with her playing days. Through her words in front of the Friday night audience, being a part of the ABC Sports team, or her thoughtful analysis for The Golf Channel, Rankin used her influence to inspire a new generation of golfers.

Perhaps one of her most significant contributions to golf was during her two-year stint as captain of the Solheim Cup team, which was a golden period for the Americans. Her leadership not only resulted in back-to-back victories in 1996 and 1998 but also inspired a legion of women golfers worldwide.

Reflecting on her impact, the World Golf Hall of Fame inducted her in 2000. This honor is testimony to her enduring influence on the sport. She scored her final triumph when she was awarded the prestigious Patty Berg Award in 2016 for her contribution to women’s golf.

Judy Rankin’s journey is proof that golf isn’t about winning, it’s about giving everything you’ve got, no matter the odds. Despite undergoing major surgery and chemotherapy in the middle of her career, she returned with the same grit and determination that marked her time on the PGA tour. We can all learn a valuable lesson from Rankin – no matter how hard life hits, it’s possible to come out the other side even stronger.

Judy Rankin isn’t just a golfer, a broadcaster, or a Hall of Famer. She’s a woman who helped to redefine the role of women in professional golf, shattering glass ceilings, and proving time and time again that skill and determination have no gender. So, let’s take a moment to celebrate the fact that golf has been fortunate enough to witness a gem of a player and a towering personality in the form of Judy Rankin. A golf piece without Rankin seems incomplete, just as a story on resilience, perseverance, and excellence seems incomplete without Judy Rankin!

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