Golfer Fay Crocker: Achieved LPGA Firsts, Records in 1950s

Fay Crocker was a South American golfer who, in the 1950s, was the first star on the LPGA Tour not born in the United States. She had a brief LPGA career — just seven years — because she was already 39 years old by the time she arrived on the LPGA scene. But Crocker made the most of that short span: She won 11 LPGA titles, including two majors, one of which was the U.S. Women's Open. Crocker also achieved multiple firsts in the history of women's pro golf in America, and set multiple LPGA records, some of which still stand today.

Full name: Helen Fay Crocker

Date of birth: August 2, 1914

Place of birth: Montevideo, Uruguay

Date and place of death: September 16, 1983, in Montevideo, Uruguay

Nickname: Her LPGA Tour colleagues called her El Toro ("the bull"), according to Louise Suggs, who also said that Crocker was not fond of that nickname.

List of Pro Tournament Wins

Crocker is credited with 11 official wins by the LPGA Tour, all of them in the six years from 1955 through 1960:
  • 1955 Serbin Open
  • 1955 Wolverine Open
  • 1955 U.S. Women's Open
  • 1956 Serbin Open
  • 1956 St. Louis Open
  • 1957 Serbin Open
  • 1957 Triangle Round Robin
  • 1958 Havana Biltmore Open
  • 1958 Waterloo Open
  • 1960 Lake Worth Open
  • 1960 Titleholders Championship
She also won the 1957 Hot Springs 4-Ball, partnered by Marilynn Smith, which, at the time, was counted as a tour win. Today, the LPGA Tour classifies it as an unofficial win.

LPGA and Major Records, Firsts Achieved by Crocker

Working in chronological order, these are the "firsts" and records achieved by Fay Crocker:
  • At the 1950 U.S. Women's Amateur, Crocker lost in the quarterfinals to Mae Murray. Scheduled for 18 holes, Murray won the match on the ninth extra hole, the 27th hole overall. That is still the longest 18-hole match ever in the U.S. Women's Amateur, and is tied for third as the longest 18-hole match in any USGA championship (men or women).
  • When Crocker won the 1955 Serbin Open for her first LPGA Tour victory, she was the first winner in LPGA history born outside the United States.
  • Crocker was 40 years, 6 months, 18 days old at the time of that 1955 Serbin Open victory, making her the oldest first-time winner in LPGA history. That record still stands today.
  • At the 1955 U.S. Women's Open, Crocker held an 8-stroke lead after 36 holes. That tied the largest 36-hole lead in the history of USGA stroke-play championships (men or women) at the time, and Crocker still shares that record today.
  • When Crocker won that 1955 U.S. Women's Open, she was that tournament's first international winner, and the first non-American to win any of the LPGA majors.
  • Crocker scored 68 in the second round of the 1958 U.S. Women's Open. It was the first score lower than 70 in the history of that tournament.
  • When Crocker won her second major, the 1960 Titleholders Championship, she was 45 years, 7 months, 11 days old. That made her the oldest winner of an LPGA major. And it still does — Crocker still holds that record today. She was also the tour's oldest overall winner at that point, a record that stood until 1985.

Crocker In the Majors

Crocker won two major championships, the 1955 U.S. Women's Open and the 1960 Titleholders Championship. And she won them both wire-to-wire. She also had two seconds and a third in majors, plus numerous other Top 10 finishes, almost all of them just in the years from 1954-60.

Her U.S. Women's Open victory in 1955 was the second wire-to-wire win in the event's history. Babe Zaharias was the first, just a year earlier. The tournament was played in windy conditions throughout, with gusts up to 40 mph on the second day. Crocker managed to shoot 72 in those conditions, tied for low round of the tournament, which is how she opened that 8-stroke lead.

She gave most of that back with a 79 in the third round, but still held a one-stroke lead over second-place Mary Lena Faulk after 54 holes. In the final round, Crocker scored 74 to Faulk's 77, and Crocker won by four over Faulk and Louise Suggs.

Crocker's second wire-to-wire major win was at the 1960 Titleholders Championship, where she was the only player in the field to score under 78 all four rounds. Crocker won by seven strokes over runner-up Kay Cornelius, and by eight over third-place Mickey Wright.

Crocker's two runner-up finishes in majors were at the 1955 Women's Western Open and the 1958 LPGA Championship. At the WWO, Crocker tied Louise Suggs for second, two behind winner Patty Berg. At the LPGA Championship (now called the Women's PGA Championship), Crocker was one stroke off Wright's lead following the third round. But in the final round, Wright shot 74 to Crocker's 79 to win by six.

It was in her third-place showing at the 1958 U.S. Women's Open that Crocker became the first golfer to go below 70 in that tournament. But her second-round 68 wasn't enough to make up for her first-round 79, and Crocker finished seven behind the winner, Wright.

In addition to her two wins, two seconds and one third in major championships, Crocker had 14 other Top 10 finishes in majors: two at the Women's Western Open, four at the Titleholders Championship, five at the U.S. Women's Open (the first as an amateur in 1950), and three in the LPGA Championship.

More About Fay Crocker

Two wins in majors, 11 LPGA titles, multiple records set, multiple LPGA firsts achieved, all in just seven years on the LPGA Tour — quite impressive for a golfer who is largely overlooked in discussions about the stars of the LPGA's first decade (the 1950s).

Fay Crocker's family all but introduced golf to its adopted country of Uruguay. She descended from a New England whaling family. Her grandfather relocated to Uruguay in the 1800s, and at some point in the early 1900s, the new Uruguayans built a 9-hole golf course in Montevideo.

Fay was born in 1914 to parents who were avid golfers. Her father, Fred Crocker, was a rancher by trade, and won the Uruguayan national golf championship 27 times. Her mother, Helen, won the country's women's golf title six times but also national tennis titles. Fay began golfing herself at the age of 6 in 1920.

It wasn't long before she was the best woman golfer in South America — which, to be fair, was a continent that had very few women golfers (or golf courses) at that time. But Fay followed in her parents' footsteps as a prolific champion. Before she moved to America in the early 1950s, Crocker, playing as an amateur, won the Uruguayan women's championship 20 times and the Argentine women's championship 14 times.

Crocker's first trip to the U.S. to play tournament golf was in 1939, when she traveled to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur. Although she lost in the third round, Crocker gained notice for her driving ability. A 1939 Time magazine article said of Crocker, "... (her) long drives fascinated the galleries, convinced them that she is the Sam Snead of women golfers."

It was 11 years before she returned, but in 1950 Crocker played in both the Amateur and Open. This was the year she reached the quarters of the U.S. Women's Amateur before bowing out in that epic, 27-hole match.

After returning home, Crocker worked for a while as a visa clerk in the American embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But she eventually decided to pursue a professional golf career full-time; she turned pro in 1954 and headed for the LPGA Tour. She was 39 years old in her rookie year on tour.

And when we say she played full-time, we mean it: From the time she turned pro in 1954 through 1960, Crocker played in almost every single LPGA event held.

In her very first round as a pro, at a 1954 Sea Island Open in Georgia, Crocker carded a course-record 69 in the final round. She didn't win that first year (although she had her first runner-up finish), but Crocker did finish 10th on the money list.

Her first LPGA win happened at the 1955 Serbin Open, a title she won three consecutive years, through 1957. The 1955 Serbin is where she became the tour's first international champion and set the record for oldest first-time winner.

And 1955 was a great year for her. She won three times (also at the Wolverine Open and U.S. Women's Open), had four runner-up finishes (including at the Women's Western Open), and finished third on the money list.

Crocker went on to win twice each in 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1960. She had many near-misses, too, recording 21 second-place finishes from 1954-60. She was fourth on the money list in 1956 and a career-best second in 1957. That year, 1957, her victories were at the Serbin Open and Triangle Round-Robin; and she was runner-up in the Tampa Open, Lake Worth Open, All-American Open and San Francisco Open.

Crocker also won the Hot Springs 4-Ball with partner Marilynn Smith in 1957, but that tournament is no longer counted as an official win by the LPGA. Crocker and Smith were good friends — Crocker even lived for a time with Smith's grandmother in Wichita, Kansas — and Smith, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, gave Crocker much credit for helping her. In her book Have Clubs, Will Travel (affiliate link), Smith wrote that Crocker:

"... approached a round of golf with flair, intenseness. She was an old-school stylist with a golf swing that drew praise from Bobby Jones. Above all, she was a positive thinker who helped me immeasurably."
Crocker and Smith served as co-tournament directors of the LPGA Tour in 1955, when Crocker was also vice president. They had sponsorship deals with Spalding (which issued Fay Crocker-branded clubs), and gave many clinics and exhibitions together, including a tour of South America in 1955.

Crocker's final two wins were in 1960, including her second major at the Titleholders Championship. That's where, at age 45, she set the record that still stands as the LPGA's oldest major champion. It was her final win.

Crocker turned 46 years old in the Summer of 1960. But, with two wins and three seconds that year (all in the first seven tournaments), she was showing no signs of slowing down. (How unusual it was at that time, particularly in women's golf, for a golfer to still be so competitive in her mid-40s is obvious in one of the first questions Crocker was asked in this interview available on YouTube: "You are 45 years of age, actually nearer 46, and you are traveling all around playing the golf circuit — don't you get tired?")

In 1961, Crocker decided to head home to South America. She had won more than $73,000 in eight years on the LPGA Tour. Three years later, in 1964, Crocker still ranked 10th all-time in LPGA earnings despite being the only golfer in the Top 10 with fewer than 10 years played. In 1969, she was still in the Top 25.

Crocker lived mostly in Argentina after retiring from the LPGA, but, when she died at age 69 in 1983, was living in her native Uruguay. The Fay Crocker Cup, a South American tournament pitting national squads of junior golfers, is played annually in Argentina today. In 1996, Crocker was featured on a Uruguayan postage stamp.

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