Margie Masters: First Australian Winner on LPGA Tour

Margie Masters is a golfer who was a winner on the LPGA Tour exactly once. But she holds a significant place in the story of LPGA and Australian golf nonetheless: She has the distinction of being not only the first Australian winner on the U.S. LPGA, but the first golfer from Australia to be a member of the LPGA Tour.

Full name: Margaret Ann Masters

Date of birth: October 24, 1934

Place of birth: Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia

Date and place of death: October 9, 2022, in Tucson, Arizona

Also known as: Her nickname, Margie, is sometimes spelled "Margee" in print (particularly in older books and magazines). During the amateur part of her career, she was typically called by her full first name, Margaret, in Australian newspaper articles.

Masters' Biggest Wins

Margie Masters had one official LPGA Tour victory:
  • 1967 Quality Chek'd Classic
She also won one unofficial-money event played by LPGA golfers but not counted as an LPGA Tour win: Masters had numerous amateur wins of note, and they are covered below.

In the Majors

Masters' best finishes in the major championships of her era in women's golf were two Top 10s in the U.S. Women's Open and two Top 10s in the Women's Western Open. Her best showing was finishing runner-up to Mickey Wright in the 1966 Women's Western Open. Masters had a 73 in the final round to Wright's 76, but finished one stroke out of a playoff.

She tied for sixth in the 1965 Women's Western Open. In the USWO, Masters was ninth in 1965 and seventh in 1967.

Her Amateur Exploits

Masters' greatest claim to fame as an amateur golfer is the fact that she won the national amateur championships of four different countries. The first of those titles happened in 1956 when she was 22 years old:
  • 1956 New Zealand Women's Amateur
  • 1957 South Africa Women's Amateur
  • 1958 Australian Women's Amateur
  • 1964 Canadian Women's Amateur
Masters made herself well-known in Australian amateur golf ranks beginning in junior tournaments. She then continued winning adult championships. Her biggest state and national wins (aside from the national titles listed above) are these:
  • 1951 Victorian Junior Girls Amateur
  • 1952 Victorian Junior Girls Amateur
  • 1953 Victorian Junior Girls Amateur
  • 1953 Australian Girls Amateur
  • 1954 Victorian Junior Girls Amateur
  • 1957 Victorian Women's Amateur
  • 1958 Australian Women's Foursomes Championship (partnered by Joan Fletcher)
  • 1959 Victorian Women's Amateur
  • 1960 New Zealand Women's Stroke Play Championship
  • 1961 Victorian Women's Amateur
  • 1962 Victorian Women's Amateur
  • 1963 Victorian Women's Amateur
In addition, Masters represented Australia against New Zealand in the biennial Women's Tasman Cup every other year from 1954 through 1962.

More About Margie Masters

Masters began golfing when she was 13 years old, but in high school her sport was swimming. And while she set records in the pool, clearly her golf game wasn't being short-shrifted: Masters began winning her first regional junior titles at age 17.

There was no professional tournament circuit for women in Australia during the 1950s or 1960s (the Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour dates to 1972), so Masters continued playing amateur golf throughout her 20s. And, as we've already seen above, she piled up plenty of titles.

In 1964, Masters headed to Canada and won the Canadian Women's Amateur while being mentored by PGA Tour winner Stan Leonard. She also kept an eye on the scores being posted by players on the LPGA Tour. Masters decided to give it a go, and finally turned professional in 1965 at the age of 31.

When Masters earned LPGA membership that year, she became the first Australian golfer to do so. In a 2013 interview, Masters recalled, "It was nice being the first Aussie on their tour. They kept asking me about kangaroos. I got so sick of it I told them they used to deliver the mail which they carried in their pouches. But people were so good to me and I made some fabulous friends."

Masters' best LPGA finishes of 1965 were a pair of sixths. She finished 13th on the tour in scoring average and 16th on the money list, and was named the LPGA Rookie of the Year for 1965.

Her lone LPGA victory happened in 1967, and she was paired in the final round with LPGA legends Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth. Those two future Hall of Famers wound up finishing a stroke behind Masters in the Quality Chek'd Classic, along with a third future Hall of Famer, Carol Mann.

From 1965-71, Masters ranked in the Top 20 in scoring each year, with a best of 10th (74.91) in 1968. And she was in the Top 25 in earnings each year, too — in the Top 15 three of those years, with a best finish of 10th in 1967.

So while she didn't win any more LPGA titles, Masters was a consistent performer. She had multiple close calls, too, finishing runner-up twice in 1967, and for the last time in 1971 at the O'Sullivan Ladies Open. A year earlier at the O'Sullivan Ladies Open, Masters got into a playoff but lost to Shirley Englehorn.

In her 2012 book Have Clubs, Will Travel (affiliate link), LPGA founder Marilynn Smith wrote about an LPGA tournament in Florida in which she was paired with Masters and both were shot at by a sniper hiding in the woods:

"We were on No. 14 with out of bounds on the left and beyond it, a thick grove of trees. I backed away from a shot because I had second thoughts about my alignment just as a shot rang out. A .45 Magnum bullet zipped past my head, exactly where I had been standing. It penetrated the ground inches from the scorekeeper's foot. We all hit the ground, Margie, our caddies and the scorekeeper. Six or seven shots sprayed out over the golf course."
Smith wrote that a priest who was in the gallery walked into the trees and beseeched whoever was there to come out, without a reply. Smith continued:
"After a long delay and much probing, the tournament director said to resume play. Margie and I were quivering but we managed to finish the round and, somehow, made the cut."
Smith wrote that she didn't find out for several months that the priest had seen in the woods a gunman, deliberately shooting at Smith and Masters, and who escaped on a motorcycle. The gunman was never caught.

In 1972, Masters dropped to 30th on the money list. The next two years she finished in the 40s, and faded after that, but kept playing through the end of the 1970s. Masters retired from the LPGA Tour after the 1979 season.

She remained in America, however, and spent many years after her tour career as a golf instructor in Michigan. Masters also spent some time living in Florida before settling, after fully retiring from golf, in Arizona.

Along the way, Masters also played in a few of the sporadic senior tournaments for former LPGA players that began popping up beginning in the late 1980s. In fact, Masters played in the very first tournament, in 1987, of what is now called the LPGA Legends Tour.

Today, Masters is a member of the Victoria Golf Hall of Fame. And the women's club championship trophy at Woodlands Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, is named after Masters, who won that tournament nine times between 1952 and 1963.

(Our thanks to Karen Harding of Harding Media Services for her assistance with this article.)

Popular posts from this blog