The LPGA was struggling at the time despite the presence of brilliant golfers such as Wright, Rawls and Louise Suggs. Galleries were relatively rare, and touring players sought budget hotels and drove around.
Whitworth did not win a tournament until her fourth year on the tour when she won the Kelly Girl Open. She cited her second win, later in 1962, at the Phoenix Thunderbird Open, for giving her the confidence to withstand the pressure.
Approaching the final hole in this event, Whitworth battled for the title with Wright, who was playing behind her. She didn’t know Wright’s score at the time because there was no ranking, but “I made the decision to go for the hole,” she told Golf Digest, even though “the keel was stuck behind a trap.”
“I whipped it out there about 15 feet and birdied it,” she recalled.
She won by four strokes and established herself as a force on the tour with eight wins in 1963.
Whitworth recorded her 88th LPGA victory in May 1985 at the United Virginia Bank Tournament. She competed on the senior women’s circuit, the Legends Tour, and then retired from competitive golf in 2005.
In her later years, Whitworth lived in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, where she taught golf lessons, ran clinics and hosted a junior women’s tournament in Fort Worth. A wooden case at his home course, the Trophy Club Country Club in Roanoke, Texas, holds numerous trophies and 88 nickel-plated plaques engraved with details of his victories.
The LPGA statement identified Bettye Odle as Whitworth’s longtime partner. He did not name other survivors, and Golf magazine reported last year that Whitworth’s sisters, Carlynne and Evelynne, had died.