Shirley Englehorn, an 11-time LPGA Tour winner and major champion, passed away on October 2, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was 81.
Englehorn’s accomplishments on and off the course were legion, and those who knew her remember a person whose love for the game knew no bounds.
Born in Caldwell, Idaho in 1940, Shirley grew up in a house next to the third tee of Fairview Golf Course, a public nine-holer in Caldwell. From the time she was nine years old she wanted to become a professional golfer.
As a teenager, Shirley dominated women’s amateur golf in Idaho. She won the Idaho Women’s State Amateur three years in a row (1956-1958), and won the McCall (Idaho) Amateur in 1957 and 1958.
Englehorn won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur at age 15, and remains the youngest to ever win that title.
After graduating from Caldwell High School, Shirley won the 1959 Oregon Women’s Amateur. In her final competition as an amateur, Shirley won the 1959 PNGA Women’s Amateur, held that year at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland.
She turned professional later in 1959, with initial sponsorship support from Spokane’s Athletic Round Table.
During her playing days on tour, she was a devotee of the 1-iron, a long-forgotten butterknife of a club that required a level of precision few possessed. Jack Nicklaus enjoyed hitting a 1-iron, but even he did not make it part of his clinics as Englehorn did for years. In fact, in her later years her email address incorporated her nickname, Dimples, with her favorite club: “Dimple1iron.”
Her direct approach and exceptional abilities, first as a player and competitor, and later as a coach, teacher, mentor and friend, left an indelible mark on the LPGA, the golf community at large, and on those who knew her.
“She was a wonderful player and could have won many more tournaments than she did,” said Kathy Whitworth, the World Golf Hall of Famer who lost in a playoff to Englehorn in the 1970 LPGA Championship. “Unfortunately, she had two incredibly bad accidents that most people probably would never recover from. She did recover, though, and returned to win again. She had a lot of courage.”
Those accidents occurred on horseback and an in automobile, the first coming at an equestrian event in Georgia in 1960, right after she turned pro, and the second in 1965 when she was in a near-fatal car crash. The latter earned Englehorn the Ben Hogan Award, given by the Golf Writers Association of America to a golfer who successfully comes back from illness or injury.
Shirley was named the LPGA National Teacher of the Year in 1978. She played in her final LPGA Tour event in 1979.
Shirley became the director of instruction at Garden of the Gods Resort in Colorado Springs, where she built a loyal following of students for more than 30 years.
In addition to being a national television sports broadcaster, she wrote numerous articles for various golf publications, including Golf World, Golf for Women and Sports Illustrated. From 1964 to 1976, Shirley was on the Sears Sporting Goods Advisory Staff, the only woman to be selected for such a role.
In 1991 she received the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award for her dedication as a golf instructor, and she was inducted into the LPGA Professionals Hall of Fame in 2014. She had been inducted into the North Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.
In 2016, she received the LPGA Pioneer Award, a mark of achievement as a player who kept the door alive after the LPGA’s founding.