Golf legend Kathy Whitworth, who over her career racked up a record 88 LPGA Tour victories, died on Saturday at age 83, the Associated Press reported.
Whitworth’s 88 wins were the most in the history of professional golf—six more than Sam Snead and Tiger Woods, who are tied for the men’s record. In 1981, she became the first woman to accumulate $1 million in lifetime earnings on the LPGA, and she has been inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame, the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame.
Her partner, Bettye Odle, said in a statement released through the LPGA that Whitworth “passed suddenly” while celebrating Christmas Eve with people close to her, but did not reveal the cause of death.
“Kathy left this world the way she lived her life—loving, laughing and creating memories,” Odle’s statement said.
Whitworth turned pro at age 19, after winning the 1957 and 1958 New Mexico State Amateur Championship. But she kicked off her career with a frustrating 1959 rookie season where she averaged 80.30 strokes per game and won just $1,217, a trajectory the LPGA called “testimony of the grittiness that defined her.”
But Whitworth persevered, racking up a stunning win streak that helped earn her the LPGA’s Player of the Year award seven times. She also won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average seven times, and was the top earner on the LPGA Tour eight times. In 1975, Whitworth secured spots in the LPGA Hall of Fame and World Golf Hall of Fame, and Golf Magazine named her “Golfer of the Decade” for the years 1968 to 1977.
“I was really fortunate in that I knew what I wanted to do,” Whitworth told Golf Digest in 2009. “Golf just grabbed me by the throat. I can’t tell you how much I loved it. I used to think everyone knew what they wanted to do when they were 15 years old.”