Golfer Jerilyn Britz: Bio of U.S. Women's Open Winner

Jerilyn Britz played the LPGA Tour from the mid-1970s into the late 1990s. And while she didn't win a lot, she did win the big one: Britz is a U.S. Women's Open champion.

Date of birth: January 1, 1943

Place of birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nickname: Later in her career, she was sometimes called "Orville" (explanation in the "More About" section).

Britz's LPGA Tour Wins

Jerilyn Britz won twice on the LPGA Tour — but one of those was the biggest tournament in women's professional golf:

Her U.S. Women's Open Win

With back-to-back rounds of 70 in the first two rounds, Britz was the first-round co-leader and solo second-round leader at the 1979 U.S. Women's Open.

After a 75 in Round 3, she fell to three strokes off the lead. At the start of the fourth round, Britz trailed leader Debbie Massey. But in that final round, Britz shot 69 to Massey's 75 to finish with a three-stroke victory over Massey and Sandra Palmer. Massey had birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to tie Britz heading to the last hole. But on that hole, Britz held her nerve for a par while Massey double-bogeyed.

Britz's winning score was even-par 284. The tournament was played at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut. At the time, Britz was the sixth golfer ever to make the U.S. Women's Open her first professional victory. She was also, at the time, at age 36, the oldest golfer to win the USWO for the first time.

Britz's 284 total matched the tournament scoring record originally set by Louise Suggs. But Britz shared that record for only a short time: It was lowered the following year.

More About Jerilyn Britz

Jerilyn Britz was a multi-sport athlete growing up in Minnesota, but golf wasn't one of those sports until she was 17 years old. Then, she began playing the 9-holer in Luverne, Minn. Decades later, Britz explained what hooked her on golf:
"I hit one solid shot and I've been trying to do it again ever since."
But she didn't pursue tournament golf at first. Britz instead graduated from college in 1965, then got her master's degree as a physical education instructor, then taught school for eight years in Minnesota and New Mexico.

During the summers when school was out, she worked on her game. In 1969, Britz won the Minnesota Women's Public Links Championship. A few years later in New Mexico, she attended a clinic given by former LPGA Tour player Joanne Winter. Winter watched Britz hit balls and immediately asked, "Have you ever thought about playing the tour?"

Britz hadn't really thought of that before. But she headed to Florida for the 1973 LPGA Q-School tournament. After getting her card, Britz joined the LPGA Tour as a 31-year-old rookie in 1974.

And Britz had her first Top 10 in a major that year, tying for 10th at LPGA Championship. She finished in the Top 60 on the money list from 1974-78, moving up to 23rd in 1978, and had a couple third-place finishes in those years. One of those was at the 1978 Patty Berg Classic, where Britz led going to the final hole, only to double bogey and drop to third.

Then came her 1979 breakout season. In addition to winning the U.S. Women's Open, she nearly claimed another major. At the 1979 LPGA Championship, Britz opened with a 64, breaking the tournament scoring record. Her round included nine birdies, an LPGA record at that time. She wound up finishing second, three strokes behind winner Donna Caponi.

Britz also finished second in the 1981 LPGA Championship, and also to Donna Caponi, although this time by a single stroke when Caponi birdied from just off the final green.

Britz tied for 10th in a couple other majors, the 1980 LPGA Championship and 1986 Nabisco Dinah Shore. And she won the 1980 Mary Kay Classic in a playoff against Nancy Lopez. Her best years on the money list were 16th in 1979 and 14th in 1980.

But after looking so good in 1979-80, Britz never won again. What happened? Well, she did run into some putting problems in the 1980s — she was one of the first LPGA players to adopt a long putter, going with a 52-inch model similar to one Orville Moody had started using on the Champions Tour (hence the nickname mentioned at the top).

But, really, nothing happened. Remember that Britz was 31 before she joined the tour, 36 when she won the 1979 U.S. Women's Open. By the time she achieved her greatest success, Britz was already at the age when a pro golfer of her era would naturally begin slipping a little as the years passed.

Britz kept playing the LPGA into her mid-50s, and last played an LPGA Tour event in 1999.

Along with all her other interests, Britz was also a pilot and a scuba diver, and she also had experience as a ski instructor. Today, Britz is a member of the Mankato State University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2018, the city of Luverne, Minn., proclaimed a "Jerilyn Britz Week."

Trivia note about Britz: She competed in the 1980 season of the television series, The Superstars. Athletes from various sports came together to compete in various athletic races and competitions. Britz finished fifth out of the 13 women athletes competing that year.

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