Golfer Pat O'Sullivan: Amateur Champ, LPGA Major Winner

Pat O'Sullivan was a major championship winner — as an amateur — in the first few years of the LPGA Tour's existence. She also won numerous amateur championships in the 1950s and 1960s, and played for Team USA in the Curtis Cup.

Full name: Patricia O'Sullivan Lucey

Date of birth: September 1, 1926

Place of birth: New Haven, Connecticut

Date and place of death: November 9, 2019 in Orange, Connecticut

Also known as: After marriage, was sometimes referred to in print at Pat O'Sullivan Lucey or Patricia Lucey

O'Sullivan's Biggest Wins

  • 1950 North and South Women's Amateur
  • 1951 Titleholders Championship
  • 1951 North and South Women's Amateur
  • 1953 North and South Women's Amateur
O'Sullivan also won many regional and state titles in New England and Connecticut, including these:
  • Connecticut State Women's Amateur Championship: 1966, 1967, 1968
  • Connecticut Women's Golf Association Match Play Championship: 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1968
  • Endicott Cup: 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951
  • New England Women's Amateur Championship: 1963, 1964, 1965
  • CWGA Senior Championship: 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982

In the Majors

Pat O'Sullivan won the 1951 Titleholders Championship by two strokes over runner-up Beverly Hanson, who, like O'Sullivan, was also an amateur at the time. (Patty Berg was the highest-finishing pro, tied for third).

O'Sullivan was the only golfer in the field who played all four rounds in 77 or lower. Her 73 in Round 1 was the best score of the first round and her best score of the tournament. Her winning score was 13-over 301. Defending champion Babe Zaharias tied for fifth place, 11 strokes behind.

The Titleholders Championship was one of the first women's tournaments (along with the Women's Western Open) open to professionals, played from 1937 through 1966 and again in 1972. Today, it is recognized as a women's major championship, meaning all of its winners, going back to the very first, are credited with LPGA major championship victories.

Several months after her Titleholders victory, O'Sullivan reached the championship match of the match-play Women's Western Open, another LPGA major of the time. But she lost in that final to Berg, 2-down, after Berg won the 36th hole.

O'Sullivan also had a seventh-place finish in the 1955 LPGA Championship.

More About Pat O'Sullivan

Pat O'Sullivan was born into a well-off, influential family: Her father, a lawyer, had served in the United States Congress and later served on the Connecticut Supreme Court. O'Sullivan had political connections much of her life. She was married to C. Gerald Lucey, who had stints in the Massachusetts Legislature as well as mayor of Brockton, Massachusetts.

O'Sullivan's family joined Race Brook Country Club in Orange, Connecticut, in 1942, and Pat was a member there for the rest of her life. It is where, in the early 1940s, she got serious about golf. That included lessons with a pretty good teacher, the "Silver Scot" Tommy Armour.

The Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame once wrote that O'Sullivan was:

"A brief but attentive and apt pupil of Tommy Armour when he was at Rockledge in West Hartford ... Pat in those formative days concentrated on 'whipping the hands through' the impact area, a basic and indispensable tenet of Armour's to produce the tiger-like ferocity that brought real distance."
Her first big tournament wins were in the 1947 CWGA Match Play (which she eventually won 10 times) and the 1948 Endicott Cup (a stroke-play tournament for Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island golfers).

O'Sullivan won many big tournaments in her career, but the biggest available to amateur golfers, the U.S. Women's Amateur, was not one of them. She first reached the match-play bracket of the U.S. Women's Amateur in 1947. She lost in third round in 1950. In her big year of 1951, O'Sullivan lost in third round to the eventual champion Dorothy Kirby. Her best showing in the USWA was a fifth-round loss to Polly Riley in 1953.

From 1950-53, O'Sullivan reached the championship of the North and South Women's Amateur — one of the biggest tournaments of the time outside of the U.S. Women's Amateur — every year, winning three of those years. In 1951, she beat Mae Murray in the final, 1-up; in 1951, O'Sullivan defeated Estelle Lawson Page, 3 and 2; in 1952, she lost in the final to Barbara Romack, 2 and 1; and in 1953 she beat Mary Lena Faulk, 1-up.

In 1951, O'Sullivan had her greatest year, winning the LPGA Titleholders Championship and coming second in the LPGA Women's Western Open. Through the first 70 years of the LPGA Tour, she was one of just five amateurs to win on the tour. That year she also won the North and South, CWGA Match Play and Endicott Cup.

As a result, O'Sullivan was, for the only time, a member of Team USA in the 1952 Curtis Cup. She lost her only match, a foursomes in which she and partner Polly Riley fell to Moira Paterson/Philomena Garvey.

O'Sullivan turned professional in 1954 in order to play the LPGA Tour full-time. It was an experiment that lasted only two years, but it explains why, in the list of her amateur tournament victories above, there is a gap between 1953 and 1959. She got her amateur status back in the late 1950s, however, and resumed winning regional titles in the 1960s.

That included winning the New England Women's Amateur three years running (1963-65) and the Connecticut State Women's Amateur Championship three years running (1966-68). Her last win in the CWGA Match Play was 1968, and she won four Connecticut senior titles from the late 1970s into the early 1980s.

In the 1990s, there was a tournament on the LPGA Tour that revived the Titleholders name, although it wasn't associated with the earlier major championship Titleholders. But in 1996, O'Sullivan attended a reunion for the major championship Titleholders winners hosted by the Sprint Titleholders Championship.

She was 93 years old when she died in 2019. At the time of her death, O'Sullivan was one of just two Connecticut natives who had ever won on the LPGA Tour. (Heather Daly-Donofrio was the second.)

Pat O'Sullivan is a member of the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame. She was elected in 1967, just the 13th golfer so honored. Since 2008, the 9-hole course at Race Brook Country Club has been named the O'Sullivan Course in her honor, and there is a statue of her by the first tee.

(Note that at the same time the American Pat O'Sullivan was winning tournaments in the 1950s, there was an Irish golfer of the same name playing in Ireland and the U.K. The American Pat O'Sullivan was by far the more successful of the two.)

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