RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Marlene Hagge-Vossler, a Hall of Fame player and the last surviving founder of the LPGA Tour, died Tuesday morning, her family said. She was 89.
Hagge-Vossler won 26 times on the LPGA Tour, including the 1952 LPGA Championship, and she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002.
She was 15-year-old Marlene Bauer when she joined 12 other women — including her older sister, Alice Bauer — in signing incorporation papers in 1950 for the fledgling LPGA Tour.
Upon her death, the LPGA is among the premier women's sports associations in the world, with players this year competing for $100 million in prize money.
“Marlene will be missed dearly, but I can guarantee she’ll never be forgotten,” LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan said. “She was an impressive athlete, a fiery competitor and at a young age showed women and girls that they could achieve greatness in all areas of life. We’re incredibly grateful for her contributions to the LPGA, women’s golf and women’s sports at large.”
Her family said she died in a memory care facility and had been coping with physical problems during the last year because of a fall, The Desert Sun reported.
Among the founders she joined were Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Louise Suggs and Patty Berg. While Hagge-Vossler already is in golf's Hall of Fame, the remaining founders were elected in March for the 2024 induction class.
They played golf, and mostly they promoted their league. Hagge-Vossler was a star on and off the course, known as one of the “glamor girls” in the early days of the LPGA.
A year before the LPGA began, she won the U.S. Girls' Junior at age 15 and in 1949 was the youngest to be voted female athlete of the year by The Associated Press.
She won her first LPGA Tour event in the 1952 Sarasota Open. Her last win was in 1972 at the Burdine's Invitational in Miami.
Born in South Dakota, her family moved to California in her childhood.
She won the Long Beach City Boys Junior when she was 10. At age 13, she won the Los Angeles Women's City Championship, the Palm Springs Women's Championship and the Northern California Open. She was the youngest player to make the cut in the U.S. Women's Open and finished eighth.
“When I won the LA City Women’s championship in 1947 when I was 13, on the back of the scorecard it said, ‘No children under 14 are permitted on the course,’” she told he Los Angeles Times in 1987.
She married Bob Hagge in 1955, shortly after he was divorced from her sister Alice. They divorced in 1964 and she married former PGA Tour pro Ernie Vossler in 1995. Her husband died in 2013.
“Marlene had a very special place in the tour. She was not only a fine player, but she was beautiful, charismatic and popular,” former LPGA Commissioner Charlie Mechem told The Desert Sun. "The tour and golf as a whole will miss her.”
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