Golfer Ruth Jessen: Bio of LPGA Winner

Ruth Jessen was a professional golfer who won tournaments on the LPGA Tour from the late 1950s into the early 1970s. Her win total reached double digits even though her career was repeatedly interrupted by injuries and surgeries.

Full name: Mary Ruth Jessen

Date of birth: November 12, 1936

Place of birth: Seattle, Washington

Date and place of birth: September 21, 2007 in Phoenix, Arizona

Jessen's Pro Tour Wins

Ruth Jessen is credited with 11 victories in LPGA Tour tournaments, those wins happening from 1959 to 1971: In addition, Jessen also won the unofficial money team event JCPenney Classic (then called the Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome) in 1965, partnered with Gardner Dickinson.

Jessen In the Majors

Jessen never won an LPGA major, but she finished runner-up in three of the majors that were played during the main part of her career (1960s): the U.S. Women's Open in 1962 and 1964; the Women's Western Open in 1964 and the Titleholders Championship in 1962. Her best finish in the Women's PGA Championship (then called the LPGA Championship) was fifth in 1963.

Two of her runner-up finishes were the result of 18-hole playoff losses to Mickey Wright. At the 1962 Titleholders, Wright made a 10-foot putt on the 72nd hole to force the playoff, then beat Jessen 69 to 72. In the 1964 U.S. Women's Open, Jessen birdied the final hole to force the playoff, but then fell to Wright, 72 to 70.

Two years earlier in the 1962 U.S. Women's Open, Jessen led after each of the first three rounds but struggled to an 80 in the final round and finished two strokes behind the winner.

Jessen had multiple other Top 10 finishes in the U.S. Women's Open, including third in 1959 and 1961; fourth in 1969; fifth in 1963; seventh in 1965 and ninth in 1974.

More About Ruth Jessen

Her calling card as a pro golfer was (as one AP newspaper article once put it), "an unorthodox, spraddle-legged putting stance." That exceptionally wide stance was something she learned growing up in Seattle, where she played on the boys' high school golf team because her school didn't have a girls' team.

Jessen did the same thing in college, because Seattle University didn't have a women's team.

She began making a name for herself with her domination of the Pacific Northwest amateur golf scene in the mid-1950s. She won three consecutive Seattle City Women's Amateur titles (1952-54), the Washington State Women's Golf Assocation championship in 1954, the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women's Amateur in 1954 and 1955, plus multiple other regional titles.

In the 1954 U.S. Girls' Junior, Jessen was low medalist when a then-record score of 75. And in 1956 she played in three LPGA tournaments as an amateur and was low amateur in each. She turned pro later that year at age 19.

Her first LPGA win happened in her third year on tour. The year 1964 was her best: She won five times, was runner-up in two majors, finished second on the money list and was third in scoring average. That year in her victory at the Omaha JC Open, her winning score of 200 was the lowest, 54-hole winning score in LPGA history to that point.

But the long list of injuries from which Jessen suffered during her career had already started by then. In 1963, she had a disc operation in her neck. There was thyroid surgery in 1965, removal of a rib in 1967, additional surgery in 1968. In 1969 she was struck in the neck by a pole from a collapsing tent, then she had surgery for elbow tendinitis in 1970.

Jessen missed all of 1970 and played very curtailed schedules in other years. When her final LPGA victory happened in 1971, it was in one of just five events she entered that year. But the $10,000 she won for the 1971 Sears Women's World Classic was the largest first-place check in LPGA history at that time.

After coming back from that string of injuries to win in 1971, Jessen was given the Ben Hogan Award. ... As of 1974, Jessen still ranked inside the top 20 (19th) on the LPGA's all-time money list. ... She retired from the tour in the mid-1970s and turned to golf instruction. She moved to Arizona and spent 30 years there as a teacher of the game. ... Her death at age 70 in 2007 was the result of lung cancer.

Jessen was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2017.

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