Kathy Ahern: Profile of LPGA Golfer and Major Winner

Golfer Kathy Ahern pictured in the 1970s
Kathy Ahern was a teen prodigy in the 1960s who went on to LPGA success in the 1970s, including winning a major championship. Her career was cut short by injuries, and her life cut short by cancer.

Date of birth: May 7, 1949

Place of birth: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Date and place of death: July 6, 1996, in Fountain Hills, Arizona

Ahern's LPGA Wins

In all three of Ahern's wins, she bested a runner-up who was among the LPGA's biggest stars: Two future Hall-of-Famers, Judy Rankin (Southgate) and Sandra Haynie (Washington), plus 27-time winner Jane Blalock (LPGA Championship).

Her LPGA Championship Win and Other Majors

For part of Ahern's career, the LPGA Tour had only two majors: The U.S. Women's Open and the LPGA Championship (now called the Women's PGA Championship). She never played the du Maurier Classic when it was a major, and played the Women's Western Open once in that tournament's final year of 1967.

At the 1972 LPGA Championship, Ahern started the final round with a one-stroke lead. But she all but put the tournament away when she reeled off five consecutive birdies on the front nine in the final round. She carded a 69 on the last day and won by six strokes.

The 1972 U.S. Women's Open was played one week later, and Ahern nearly pulled off the double: She tied for second place, one stroke behind the winner Susie Maxwell Berning.

One year earlier, Ahern was runner-up to Kathy Whitworth at the 1971 LPGA Championship. She also finished 10th at the 1976 LPGA Championship.

More About Kathy Ahern

Kathy Ahern was born in Pittsburgh but she grew up in Dallas. She enjoyed state-level success at what was, for the time (mid-1960s), an unusually young age for a female golfer.

In 1964, at age 15, Ahern won the Women's Texas Public Links Championship. In 1965, at age 16, she claimed both the Texas Girls Junior and the Women's Texas Amateur Championship.

In 1966, Ahern won the Western Junior and was runner-up at the U.S. Girls' Junior. She then turned pro a couple weeks after graduating high school, joining the LPGA Tour at age 17.

And in the early 1970s, Ahern appeared ready to become one of the tour's stars: Her first win in 1970, her runner-up finish in the 1971 LPGA Championship. And then her big year of 1972, which included this three-tournament stretch: winning the LPGA Championship, runner-up at the U.S. Women's Open, winning the George Washington Classic.

But Ahern never won again. She finished in the Top 60 on the money list every year from 1967 through 1980 (including her best showing of sixth in 1972), but never again. A series of injuries derailed Ahern's career in the early 1980s, and she missed the entirety of the 1981-83 seasons. She didn't play a full schedule again until 1988.

Then, in May 1991, Ahern was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following radiation treatments and a lumpectomy, she returned to play eight tournament later in the year, but those were the last tournaments she ever played.

Although she gave up competing, Ahern frequently traveled to LPGA tournaments. Sometimes she caddied for friend Sherri Turner, other times she helped players who asked for her thoughts on their swings or putting strokes.

In early 1993, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to various other parts of her body. She made her last visit to an LPGA tournament in June 1996. One month later, at her mother's house in Phoenix, Kathy Ahern died at the age of 47.

"Kathy's courage and determination in the face of her illness is an inspiration to all of us. She was never deterred from showing her love of the LPGA, her family and friends." — Jim Ritts, commissioner of the LPGA Tour at the time of Ahern's death

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