The purses I played for don't compare, but I'm proud of my place in LPGA History
Think about $11,255,000. That figure represents what I would have earned in 2012 prize money for the 44 LPGA titles I won from 1961 through '64. In reality I won $104,946 during my record four-year stretch, an average of $26,236.50 a year, which was a lot of money at the time.
I stare at that $11 million figure in shock. That's a lot more than inflation. As my good friend Louise Suggs once said, that could make you throw up.
So do I wish I played in the current era? Absolutely not. In my day we logged 60,000 miles a year trekking from tournament to tournament by car. On off days I conducted 128 golf clinics a year for Wilson Sporting Goods. These weren't paid outings, mind you; these were to attract a gate. These were about the LPGA's survival. I'm not much of a public speaker, but we all did our part. I guess everybody plays in the time they should play. I feel I did.
The LPGA today is beyond my wildest dreams. I'm a little disappointed that we don't have more top American women today, and I hope that will change. I think Lexi Thompson is going to give them fits. She has impressed me.
These girls today, though, don't know how tough it once was. We joined as neophytes and learned how to play golf on the tour. College golf has changed all that.
My era shouldn't be overlooked, and maybe it won't be. On June 16 the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J., unveiled a new room, the first gallery dedicated to a woman, with my name on it. As far as I'm concerned, the gallery represents all the women who came before me and built the tour.
I was so tickled when the USGA told me about the exhibit that I shed a few tears. I've received numerous distinctions in my career, but this is special. Why? Because it's forever.
I treated hitting a golf ball as an art form. On display are the 1963 Wilson Staff Dynapower clubs that I used for 32 years. We could play good golf with implements considered to be antiques. I shot 62 twice, once at Hunting Creek near Louisville, which was one tough booger. It was one of those miracle days when everything clicked.
When I stepped away from golf, I had done everything I'd set out to do. Nothing else can give me what golf gave me. I can never replace it. I am grateful to have had it.