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Babe Zaharias

Babe Zaharias (June 26, 1911-Sept. 27, 1956) -- America's first female golf celebrity and leading player of the 1940s and 1950s. Zaharias first came to national attention as a track and field star, winning a record five gold medals at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Turning to golf, her national fame as an athlete brought a new level of awareness to women's golf. Although originally classified as a professional, she won back her amateur status during the Second World War and won the 1946-47 U.S. Women's Amateur as well as the 1947 British Amateur and three Western Open victories. Formally turning professional in 1947, she dominated the WPGA and later the LPGA (of which she was a founding member) until illness shortened her career in the mid-1950s. She won the 1947 Titleholders and the 1948 U.S. Women's Open for her fourth and fifth major championships.

Zaharias had her greatest year in 1950 when she completed the Grand Slam of the Women's Open, the Titleholders, and the Western Open, in addition to leading the money-list. She was the leading money-winner again in 1951 and in 1952 took another major with a Titleholders victory, but illness prevented her from playing a full schedule in 1952-53. She made a comeback in 1954 and took the Vare Trophy and her tenth and final major with a U.S. Women's Open championship. Her cancer reappeared in 1955 and limited her schedule to eight events, but she managed two wins which were her final ones in competitive golf. Cancer took its toll and Zaharias died in 1956 while still in the top rank of female American golfers.