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A women's golf OG on the sport's rise in popularity

Betsy King in 2018.
John Gress
USGA Museum
Betsy King in 2018.

Legend Betsy King reflects on her legacy and how women's golf has evolved in her lifetime.

Who is she? Betsy King is a celebrated professional golfer with a firsthand view on how her sport differed from the men's division, and how it has changed through the decades.

  • In 1977, King joined the LPGA tour, and went on to secure 34 tour wins in her career, smashing records along the way.
  • She won the U.S. Women's Open two years in a row (1989, 1990) and was inducted into the World Golf and LPGA Halls of Fame in 1995.
  • View this post on Instagram A post shared by U.S. Women's Open (@uswomensopen)

    What's the big deal? This week, one of the biggest events in women's golf started – the U.S. Women's Open.

  • This year, for the first time ever, the tournament is taking place at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links, and golfers are competing for a record $11 million in prize money
  • NBC is also broadcasting all four rounds live for the first time, demonstrating a new level of attention to the women's game

  • Want more on athletics? Does eating hot dogs count? Listen to Consider This on the history of competitive eating contests.

    What's she saying?
    King spoke with NPR's Daniel Estrin from Pebble beach about the tournament and the change this year's location symbolizes as a whole.

    On the energy at Pebble Beach:

    It's great. It's very positive. It's phenomenal to see. I played in 30 U.S. Opens and nothing that touches this in terms of the purse money, the way the players are being treated and, of course, getting the opportunity to play Pebble Beach, one of the iconic golf courses available to play. And not only is the course phenomenal, but the views - it's along the ocean, the Pacific Ocean. So it's just a special week for everyone involved.

    View this post on Instagram A post shared by Betsy King (@betsyking_hof)

    On the growth of women's golf:

    It's amazing. I think the biggest change is that it's really become a very international game. The LPGA Tour is the best tour in the world to play as a woman player. And so literally all the best players in the world come to the LPGA to play. 

    On the disparities between men and women's golf:

    I played on the tour for 28 years, and we were always fighting that [disparity] a little bit. I mean, the women today - they really are amazing, right? They hit the ball further than - certainly than I did and the players in my era.

    The equipment is so much better, plus just the physicality of the players. But at the same time, they're not going to be hitting it as far as, say, Tiger Woods and the top players on the men's side.

    But it is a great game. But we have to have that niche that we're not exactly the same as the men. I do get a lot of comments that - when people come out and watch us play, they're surprised by how far the players hit it. 

    So, what now?

  • The U.S. Women's Open will continue until Sunday, July 9.
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    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.