Profile of Golfer Kathy Cornelius

Kathy Cornelius was an LPGA Tour golfer from the 1950s into the 1980s. She recorded multiple wins, but the biggest of them was a victory in the U.S. Women's Open. She also is part of the first-ever mother-and-daugher pair to both win USGA championships.

Birth name: Katharine McKinnon

Date of birth: October 27, 1932

Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts

Cornelius' Biggest Wins

Kathy Cornelius is credited with six official wins on the LPGA Tour, ranging from 1956 to 1973: She also had two wins in unofficial-money tournaments (not counted as tour wins today by the LPGA):
  • 1956 Hot Springs 4-Ball Invitational (partnered by Beverly Hanson)
  • 1962 Babe Zaharias Open (36 holes, tie with Betsy Rawls, no playoff)

Her USWO Victory and Other Major Championships

Kathy Cornelius almost blew her chance on the 72nd hole of the 1956 U.S. Women's Open. But then she rallied to run away with the ensuing 18-hole playoff.

Cornelius was the first-round leader with a 73, then a 77 in Round 2 dropped her into third place, two off the pace. After three rounds, Cornelius and Marlene Hagge shared the lead, six strokes ahead of anyone else.

But in the final round, both faltered — Cornelius shot 79 (which remains the tournament record for highest final-round score by the winner), Hagge 80. An amateur star named Barbara McIntire was on fire, however: She eagled the 72nd hole to score 71. McIntire began the day eight strokes off the lead, but after Cornelius bogeyed the final hole she and McIntire were tied.

And a tie required an 18-hole playoff. After nine holes, the amateur led the pro by one stroke. But over the back nine Cornelius steadily pulled away, eventually winning the playoff, and the championship, by seven shots.

Cornelius finished 30th (which was last among professionals in the field) in her title defense in 1957. But she had other good showings in the tournament, including runner-up in 1965. In the final round that year Cornelius fired the second-lowest round of the tournament, a 69. But she started that final round five behind Carol Mann, and Mann birdied the 72nd hole to beat Cornelius by two.

That wasn't Cornelius' only second-place finish in a major. She was also second to Fay Crocker in the 1960 Titleholders Championship, albeit by seven strokes.

Cornelius was a regular on major championship leaderboards from the mid-1950s into the mid-1960s. All told, she had 20 Top 10 finishes in majors. Those included a tie for seventh in the 1963 U.S. Women's Open, fourth in the 1961 Titleholders, and tied for fifth in both the 1957 Titleholders and 1965 LPGA Championship. Cornelius finished in the Top 10 of the LPGA Championship every year but one from 1956-63.

More About Kathy Cornelius

Kathy Cornelius was born in Boston, but it was Florida where her golf game developed. Her family moved there in time for Kathy to first take up golf at age 13, in 1946. She would ride her bicycle to the local 9-holer to play.

After high school, Cornelius attended Florida Southern University, where she played golf on the men's team (there was no women's team). While in school, she earned her biggest amateur victory in the Southern Amateur in 1952. Cornelius also finished runner-up in the national college championship (precursor to the NCAA Championship) in 1951 and 1953.

The year 1953 was a big one for her: Kathy McKinnon became Kathy Cornelius when she married golf pro Bill Cornelius. She also turned pro, but not yet to play on the young LPGA Tour: She focused for the next few years on Lake Worth (Fla.) Country Club, where Bill was head pro; and on starting a family (the first of their two daughters was born in 1954).

But in 1956, Cornelius decided to give the LPGA Tour a real try. Good decision! She earned her first victory in the St. Petersburg Open. A 1957 article in the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal newspaper stated that Cornelius' winning score of 287 in the 1956 St. Petersburg Open was the LPGA's 72-hole scoring record at the time. It actually wasn't, but it certainly was a very low score on the LPGA for the period.

A few weeks before the U.S. Women's Open, Cornelius teamed with Beverly Hanson to win the Hot Springs 4-Ball Invitational. Although not counted as an official LPGA win today, it was an event that attracted a strong field each year it was played.

And then, of course, Cornelius won the 1956 U.S. Women's Open. Her victory in the USWO was in her very first try. She was the second golfer to do that after Patty Berg in 1946. But the 1946 USWO was the inaugural one, so everyone in the field was playing it for the first time. That means that Cornelius was the first golfer to win the USWO in her first try beyond the tournament's Year 1.

Cornelius went three years until her next LPGA win, and won again on tour in 1961. She cut back her time on the tour from the mid-1960s to to early 1970s, but still fared well enough on money list to maintain her card. She did have several runner-up finishes: to Susie Maxwell Berning in the 1965 Muskogee Civitan Open; to Kathy Whitworth in the 1968 River Plantation Invitational; to Sandra Haynie in the 1968 Pacific Ladies Classic. The Corneliuses had a second daughter during that time period.

Kathy returned to the LPGA close to full time in 1972 and she won the Bluegrass Invitational in Kentucky that year. Some LPGA trivia: It was during Cornelius' Bluegrass victory that Jane Blalock was disqualified for improperly marking her ball on the green. Blalock was later suspended from the tour, essentially accused of cheating. She filed a lawsuit, which she ultimately won, and which, ultimately, led to the reorganization of the LPGA Tour and the hiring of the tour's first commissioner.

In 1973, Corneluis posted another runner-up, to Kathy Whitworth in the 1973 Waco Tribune Herald Ladies Classic. Even better, she recorded what turned out to be her final win, the 1973 Sealy-Faberge Classic. Cornelius finished the year eighth on the LPGA money list, her career-best finish.

The last of her second-place finishes came two years later, to Donna Caponi in the 1975 Burdine's Invitational. Cornelius essentially retired from tour life after 1980, making just a few more appearances until her last in 1983.

From 1956 through 1977, Cornelius was outside the Top 48 on the money list just once. In addition to her 8th-place money list finish in 1973, Cornelius was 10th in 1958, ninth in 1959, and finished 11th two other years.

In the early 1970s, the Cornelius family moved to Arizona and Kathy and Bill opened a driving range where each also gave lessons. In the mid-1980s they created a golf club company, Magique, which they ran through 1999.

In 2017, Kathy Cornelius was inducted into the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame. She's not just a Hall of Famer, though: Along with daughter Kay Cornelius, Kathy achieved a USGA first.

In 1981, Kay Cornelius won at the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. At age 14, Kay was the youngest winner of that tournament (a record since broken). The victory made Kathy and Kay Cornelius the first-ever (and still the only) mother-and-daughter duo to both win USGA national championships.

Kay Cornelius went on to play in the U.S. Women's Open at age 15, and played collegiately at Stanford. After pursuing a tour career for a while, she became a very respected golf instructor based in Arizona.

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