Mary Lena Faulk, LPGA Major Winner

LPGA golfer Mary Lena Faulk
Mary Lena Faulk was an LPGA Tour player of the 1950s and 1960s who won 10 times, including one victory in a major championship.

She was a popular, respected player with her peers. Mickey Wright once called her one of the best putters on tour. Instructor Harvey Penick, with whom Faulk worked during her career, said she was "the most accurate of all the women on the tour" from 175 yards.

Faulk was known for her quiet, polite nature, and for a smooth swing that was "wonderful, graceful," in Wright's words.

On a family blog about Faulk, a letter from Mickey Wright is reproduced. It includes this remembrance from Wright, who won 82 LPGA tournaments:

"When I first came on tour in 1955 I was a terrible putter and Mary Lena was one of the best on tour. She sort of took me under her wing and gave me the old Bullseye putter in 1956. She told me to stick with that putter and not to be changing, as most people do. She said, 'It's never the putter's fault'. Well, I used it the rest of my career, and it was very good to me. It now rests in the USGA Museum in the 'Mickey Wright Room' in Far Hills, N.J."
Date of birth: April 15, 1926

Place of birth: Chipley, Florida

Date and place of death: August 3, 1995 in Delray Beach, Florida

Nickname: The Sweet Swinger from Georgia (although born in Florida, Faulk was more associated with Georgia early in her career)

Mary Lena Faulk's Pro Tournament Wins

Faulk is credited with 10 wins on the LPGA Tour: The Women's Western Open was an LPGA major at the time of Faulk's win.

Also, playing as an amateur, she won the Hardscrabble Open in 1951, one year after it was last counted as an LPGA event. And twice she teamed with Betty Jameson to win a non-LPGA team tournament.

Biography of Mary Lena Faulk

Mary Lena Faulk was born in Florida and grew up playing tennis and golf there. But her family moved to Thomasville, Georgia, when she was 14, and she started focusing more on golf. After college, Faulk turned to golf full-time, so when she started winning big events she was closely associated with the state of Georgia.

Those first big wins were in the Georgia Women's Amateur Matchplay Championship, which she won in 1946, 1947 and 1948. She began playing the national amateur championship, but without much success.

Then 1953 arrived. Faulk reached the semifinals of the 1953 British Ladies Amateur, then headed home to play the U.S. Women's Amateur.

Faulk made it back to America, but her golf clubs didn't. She borrowed a set of irons from Peggy Kirk Bell, and cobbled together the rest of a set from clubs she had stored in her garage.

Then she went out and won the tournament. Among the players Faulk beat en route to the title were future LPGA player Wiffi Smith and, in the championship match, Polly Riley, winner of the very first tournament in LPGA history.

Writing later that year in the USGA Journal, the USGA's executive director Joseph Dey described Faulk this way:

"Her golfing style is simple and sound, with little or no wasted effort. She seems tireless in her ability to keep placing the ball on the green."

The city of Thomasville honored her with a parade. In her title defense the following year, Faulk lost in the semifinals to Mickey Wright. Faulk also played on the United States Curtis Cup team in 1954.

It was time to go pro.

Faulk did not disappoint once she joined the LPGA Tour. While she didn't win in her rookie year of 1955, she was runner-up in two majors: the Titleholders and the U.S. Women's Open.

Her first LPGA win came a year later in 1956. It was 1961 that turned out to be her biggest year in golf, though. She won four LPGA titles total, three of them in a three-week span — back-to-back-to-back. And one of those was a major championship, the 1961 Women's Western Open.

The Spalding Sporting Goods company, a sponsor of Faulk, started selling woods, irons and putters with her name on them.

Faulk won three more times after that, but one got away: The 1963 LPGA Championship, another major. Faulk entered the final round tied with friend and rival Mickey Wright, but shot 72 to Wright's final-round 70, and finished second.

Faulk retired from the LPGA Tour following the 1965 season. As late as 1974, she was still in the Top 30 on the LPGA's career money list.

After her tour days ended, Faulk became a highly respected teaching pro. Her approach was the same as in her playing days, simple and straightforward:

"Hit the ball that's in front of you, and do your best on every shot. You can't play the next shot until after you've played this one. I don't care who you are, you're not going to hit it perfect every time. Do your best with what you've got today, and do it one shot at a time. That's what I would tell every golfer."

Faulk taught for nearly 20 years out of the Broadmoor Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the summer; and out of the Ben Sutton Golf School in Florida during the winter. She also was a golf pro at Westchester Country Club in New York for a time.

In 1993, she was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.

At the time of her death in 1995, Faulk and her old fourball partner Betty Jameson had shared a house together for more than 30 years.

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