Golf Through the Decades of the U.S. Women’s Open

Photo shows Babe Didrickson Zaharias. (Copyright unknown/Courtesy USGA Archives)

By Ashley Crain

Our cover model Lucy Li during the first round at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, North Carolina. She currently holds records as the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open. Her stars and stripes ensemble is now on display at the USGA Museum in Liberty Comer, New Jersey. (USGA/John Mummert)

There’s something to the old adage, “Look good, feel good, play good,” and while this applies in sports across the gender board, in women’s sports, there is no truer statement.

When the first United States Women’s Open Golf Championship was played in 1946, competitors’ attire was – to say the least – less stylish and comfortable than the fashions we see today. Champion Patty Berg claimed that first trophy wearing a bulky sweater and long wool skirt. Surely, Ariya Jutanugarn was more at ease in the shorts and form-fitting stretch fabric she wore as she worked her way through the final round of the 2018 US Open, earning her second major championship.

Still, from early on, women golfers pushed boundaries of fashion, aiming to both look sharp and gain competitive advantage. And each year’s U.S. Open has been a showcase of both talent and the evolution of style.

With men away at war during the 1940s, women gained new opportunities in the world of sports (recall the film “A League of Their Own”). Newfound roles in sports found them struggling to balance fashion and femininity with athleticism:  The ankle-length skirts worn by early U.S. Open champions like Babe Zaharias and Mickey Wright weren’t designed to look particularly attractive or to make it easy maneuver 18 holes of golf, but these ladies approached the game with grace and determination. Thankfully, technology, trends and perceptions have progressed considerably…

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