If you’ve never heard of Fay Crocker, let’s get you acquainted with the first non-American to win the U.S. Women’s Open/the oldest winner of a LPGA Tour major.
We live in an environment where the average golf fan would struggle to identify the five winningest LPGA Tour players of all time (Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright, Annika Sorenstam, Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, for the record).
Not surprisingly, then, there are huge swaths of the LPGA Tour’s history that remain relatively unknown.
Fay Crocker’s path to professional success was a unique one. A former clerk at the American Embassy, Crocker didn’t turn pro until 1954 when she was 39.
Has any other major winner in men’s or women’s professional golf taken a similar path? It’d be like Maverick McNealy deciding he doesn’t want to turn pro, taking a desk job for the next 20 years, then changing his mind (then joining the PGA Tour and winning majors).
Born in Montevideo in 1914, her parents, Frederick and Helen, were both excellent golfers. They introduced Fay to the game at six. Her father, and importer, won 27 golf championships in the country. Crocker herself was an accomplished amateur as well. She would go on to win the Uruguay women’s championship 20 times and Argentina’s, 14.
Interestingly, at 25, she lost in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur and didn’t play in another USGA event for 11 years, keeping a lower profile and not going pro.
As mentioned, Crocker didn’t decide to tee it up on the LPGA Tour until 1954. She finished seventh in her first tournament as a professional, immediately showing her promise.
A year later, Crocker won the 1955 Serbin Open for her maiden LPGA Tour victory. At the time of the win, she was the LPGA Tour’s oldest winner. She continued her good form in 1955, winning the Wolverine Open by seven strokes.
At the 1955 U.S. Women’s Open, 41-year-old Fay Crocker battled winds that gusted up to 45 miles-per-hour and an equally strong field. She won by four strokes. With the win, she became the first non-American-born Women’s Open winner.
She was rightfully named Golf Digest’s Most Improved Female Professional golfer at the end of 1955.
Crocker won twice in 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1960. Her win at the Titleholders Championship in 1960 made her the oldest winner of an LPGA major at 45 years, 7 months and 11 days.
She retired from the LPGA Tour in 1961 after a 16-year professional career. At the time of her retirement, she was in the top 10 in career tour earnings at $73,410.
Fay Crocker died in Argentina in 1983 at the age of 69.
Crocker remains tied for 44th on the all-time LPGA’s win list with 11 victories. In addition to winning two of the four women’s major championships of the day, she tied for second in the other two (Western Open, Women’s PGA Championship).
Owing to her late start as a professional, her international status, and the quality of her play during a relatively brief professional career, she deserves a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.