Born Mae Louise Suggs on this day in 1923 in Atlanta, Georgia, the future LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member grew up in a baseball family. Her grandfather owned the Atlanta Crackers and her father, John was a former pitcher who went to Spring Training with the New York Yankees in 1923. But golf became a significant part of their lives when they moved to Lithia Springs and her father built and opened a golf course. Suggs started playing golf at age 10 and before long, she was on her way to a brilliant amateur career.
Suggs won the Georgia State Amateur Championship in 1940 and 1942, the Southern Amateur twice and the North and South Amateur Championship three times (1942, 1946, 1948). She won the Titleholders in 1946, which was a major at the time, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1947. Shortly before turning professional on July 8, 1948, Suggs won the 1948 British Amateur Championship and represented the United States on the 1948 Curtis Cup Team. At the time she turned pro, Suggs held five of the world’s leading amateur trophies.
Over the course of her illustrious career, Suggs won 61 professional tournaments, including 11 major championships. But perhaps her greatest legacy in golf was that she was one of the founding members of the LPGA Tour in 1950. The 13 Founders were involved in all aspects of professional golf – they played, organized tournaments, established rules and by-laws and supervised membership.
It didn’t take long for Suggs to make her impact on the LPGA Tour inside the ropes. She won at least one LPGA tournament for 13 consecutive years from 1950-62 and from 1950-60, she finished in the top-3 on the season-ending money list in every year but one. Suggs was the LPGA’s leading money winner in 1953 when she won nine tournaments, including the Western Open, which was one of the LPGA’s major championships at the time. She also topped the Tour’s season-ending money list in 1960 and served as the president of the LPGA from 1955-57.
A feisty competitor, Suggs was known for her spirit and toughness throughout her career. Her 14-stroke victory over bitter rival Babe Zaharias in the 1949 U.S. Women’s Open still is tied for the largest victory ever in that event’s history.
Suggs is one of only seven women to achieve the LPGA’s Career Grand Slam and was the first to accomplish the feat in 1957. That same year she won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on Tour.
Nicknamed “Miss Sluggs” by Bob Hope for how far she could hit the ball, Suggs was one of the inaugural inductees into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame when it was created in 1967 and was one of six charter members of the LPGA Teaching and Club (T&CP) Division Hall of Fame in October 2000.
Suggs was a trailblazer throughout her career. She became the first woman ever elected into the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame in 1966, paving the way for women to become future inductees. And in 1961 Suggs got the chance to prove that women golfers could compete against men. In an LPGA tournament held on a par-3 course in Palm Beach, Florida, Suggs triumphed against a 24-player field that included fellow LPGA professionals and PGA professionals including Sam Snead.