Mickey Wright to Receive 2010 Bob Jones Award

Mary Kathryn "Mickey" Wright, the 1952 U.S. Girls' Junior champion and four-time U.S. Women's Open champion, has been chosen to receive the United States Golf Association's 2010 Bob Jones Award.

Presented annually since 1955, the USGA's highest honor is given in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. The Award seeks to recognize a person who emulates Jones' spirit, his personal qualities and his attitude toward the game and its players.

The Award will be presented February, 6, 2010, at the USGA's Annual Meeting in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. "It's very nice to be remembered," Wright said of the Jones Award. "The USGA has always meant a great deal to me, and it means a lot that they think enough of me to give me the Award."

In announcing the Award, James Bunch, a member of the USGA Executive Committee and chairman of the Bob Jones Award Committee, said: "A number of people have contacted me since hearing the news of this year's Bob Jones Award recipient, telling me what a great choice Mickey Wright is for the Award. Many believe that she is the best woman golfer of all time. This compliment, however, has been eclipsed by the many comments about her other contributions to the game, including her strong sense of the importance of integrity and etiquette in the game and the way she always went out of her way to help many of the younger players on the LPGA Tour. She personifies the essence of sportsmanship and the ideals behind the Bob Jones Award. We believe Bob Jones would be very pleased with this choice."

Wright, 74, has a passion for the game that began when she was 11 years old, growing up in San Diego, Calif. As she improved, golf became a form of self-expression, a way of exhibiting what she termed her "psycho-motor" talent.

Her victory at age 17 in the 1952 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach, Calif., was Wright's introduction to the national arena. Two years later, her pairing with Babe Zaharias in the 1954 U.S. Women's Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass., and her fourth-place finish attracted rare attention for a 19-year-old amateur. After finishing as runner-up in the 1954 U.S. Women's Amateur, Wright turned professional, determined to become the greatest woman golfer ever.

Her record speaks for itself: 82 LPGA Tour wins and 13 major victories, including four U.S. Women's Opens (1958, 1959, 1961, 1964). At the age of 27, over a 12-month span in 1961 and 1962, she held all four major titles of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the only player to accomplish this feat. She was the LPGA's leading money winner four times and won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average five consecutive years (1960-1964).

During a time when the players themselves virtually ran the tour, Wright served as LPGA president in 1963 and 1964, years in which she won the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award.

"The camaraderie among the girls trying to build that tour was fun," Wright said. "A lot of it was hard work, but it was really fun. You were creating something. We had no idea that it would take off and become commercial, but then we didn't know about Title IX."

Wright retired in 1969. She was only 34, but various health concerns and injuries and an aversion to flying prompted her to the sidelines. And, she said, she had accomplished what she set out to do.

Wright came out of retirement a few times. In 1973, she won the Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle, wearing tennis shoes because of a foot ailment. In 1979, she was part of a five-way tie for first in the Coca-Cola Classic but lost in a playoff. She made her last public appearances playing in the Sprint Senior Challenge from 1993 to 1995.

In 1999, the Associated Press named Wright the Female Golfer of the Century. Her flowing and powerful golf swing was hailed by both Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson as the greatest swing - woman or man - either player had ever seen.

Noted golf writer Herbert Warren Wind described her as "a tall, good-looking girl who struck the ball with the same decisive hand action that the best men players use, she fused her hitting action smoothly with the rest of her swing, which was like Hogan's in that all the unfunctional moves had been pared away, and like Jones' in that its cohesive timing disguised the effort that went into it."

But it was the way in which Wright won that earned her the respect of her contemporaries. Peggy Kirk Bell, a former Jones Award winner, wrote that Wright was "always humble and very gracious about her victories."

"Devoted to perfection, she nevertheless remains one of the most gracious people in all of sport," wrote former USGA President Judy Bell in support of Wright's nomination. "Modest as a winner, generous when she was so rarely defeated, Mickey Wright personifies the code of the true champion . . . No one has loved the game more than Mickey Wright."