Lightning strikes that hit people. Lottery winners from your hometown. Perfect games in baseball. These are some of the things that we consider to be extremely rare occurrences.
You can add something else to that list: accomplished left-handed women’s golfers.
To prove this point, here are all of the left-handed golfers who are currently competing on the LPGA Tour:
Did you get that? Or did you blink and miss it? That’s right – the answer is zero.
It’s not that there aren’t plenty of talented female golfers out there in the world. But even the ones who are naturally left-handed tend to play right-handed golf. This is even true for those who batted or pitched left-handed in softball or tossed up jump shots with their left hand on the basketball court.
There’s no definitive reason for this phenomenon. Two of the biggest factors are undoubtedly the absence of southpaw role models in the women’s golf ranks, and the rarity of left-handed clubs in general in the consumer market. Plus, since many golfers (of either gender) take up the game at a young age, they’re more adaptable as kids and can go against their left-handed instincts and play right-handed golf.
Still, there are a few left ladies scattered around the golf courses of the world. But you’re just as likely to see one in a competitive golf event as you are to see Bigfoot in your local forest. So if you do happen to see a member of the fairer sex swinging a left-handed golf club, be sure to snap a photo. It could be worth a lot of money on eBay one day.
Here is a list of some of the most accomplished left-handed women’s golfers of the past few decades:
10. Bonnie Bryant
This list should start with the most famous lefty female golfer in LPGA history. Bryant has garnered this title because she is the only person ever to win an LPGA event while playing lefthanded. She only did it once, beating out four other players by three strokes to with the 1974 Bill Branch Classic in Fort Myers, Florida. For that achievement, she took home a whopping $5,700. The Tulare, California native was a AAA Fast Pitch softball player until age 20, when she took up golf for the first time. The closest Bryant ever came to winning a tournament again was in 1979, when she lost in a five-way playoff to Nancy Lopez at the Coca-Cola Classic in Clifton, New Jersey.
9. Lancy Smith
Here’s another “blast from the past” in the lefty women’s golfer history books. Smith was never a professional golfer, but she did tear up some amateur courses in the 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, Smith was in the Top Ten amateur golfers in the country (according to Golf Digest) a dozen times from 1970 to 1984, and held the top spot in 1980. She was also a five-time starter on the Curtis Cup team, which competes against amateur golfers from England and Ireland. Smith’s 9-to-5 job was working as a dental technician for her father (also a golfer) in Snyder, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. Today, Smith has been enshrined in the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, and many consider her to be the best female golfer (from either side of the ball) to come from Western New York.
8. Cathryn Bristow
Right now, Bristow is the #2 golfer in all of New Zealand (behind Lydia Ko, but you knew that). Unfortunately, the 29-year old failed to make this season’s LPGA Tour, missing the cut in the qualifying tournament by seven strokes. However, the Kiwi did earn a second Ladies European Tour card and will try to improve on her self-described “disappointing” rookie season, when she made just two out of 12 cuts and netted only $6,600 in prize money. The Auckland native took up golf at age 13 and played alongside her brother during her teen years. She played college golf at Oregon and did compete in four LPGA events in 2010. Her only professional win came in 2011 on the Symetra Tour (the “minor league” tour for the LPGA), when she won the Pennsylvania Classic that was shortened to 36 holes due to rain.
7. Angela Buzminski
The Canadian alumni of Indiana University has been playing golf professionally since 1995. Buzminski did play for several years on the LPGA Tour between 2002 and 2005 and 2009-2010, but injured her ankle along the way and spent some time trying to get back into golfing form. Her most recent victory was on the Futures Tour in 2009, and she does boast career earnings of almost $189,000. But last year, the southpaw failed to crack the $10,000 mark on the Symetra Tour, notching just one top-ten finish in 14 events. Buzminski was also a talented snow skier, and even made the national team. The Oshawa, Ontario native began playing golf at age 14.
6. Malinda Johnson
The University of Wisconsin lefty was a terror in the collegiate ranks, notching 13 top-ten finishes as a Badger. Johnson then turned pro in 2004 and surged to a fifth-place finish on the Futures Tour money list. She played on the LPGA Tour in 2005, earning a total of over $48,000 by making the cut in three of the final five tournaments she played in. But she had to undergo shoulder surgery in 2006 and hasn’t played in the LPGA since. After a tough rehab, she left the sport of golf for awhile, but then got back into the competitive ranks and earned a spot on the Futures Tour back in 2009. An Eau Claire, Wisconsin native, Johnson has amassed $44,000 in winnings on the Symetra Tour in her career.
5. Kelly Lagedrost
Lagedrost hasn’t played professionally since September of 2011, but she does have career earnings of over $78,000 from ten years on the Futures-Symetra Tour, finishing in the top-ten 10 different times. But in two seasons on the LPGA Tour, Lagedrost was only able to earn $13,800 and change, making five cuts in 27 tournaments in 2004 and 2006. The southpaw graduated from the University of South Florida in 2001 and turned pro the following year. Born to parents who were avid golfers, Lagesdrost reportedly had a mean T-ball swing, so her folks put a golf club in her hand at age eight – and she began playing in tournaments two years later. These days, Lagedrost is the golf pro at Brooksville Country Club in Florida.
4. Kelsey Verbeten-Frey
The Badger State seems to produce an inordinate number of lefty women golfers. Like Johnson, Verbeten-Frey grew up in Wisconsin (in Green Bay) and competed at UW during her collegiate career. She competed in every Badger tournament from her sophomore year on, and was named the squad’s Player of the Year as well as All-Academic Big Ten during her junior year. She turned pro in 2011, but only made the cut on the Symetra Tour once that season. Her 72nd place finish only earned her $740, which represents all the money she has earned on the Symetra Tour. How did Verbeten-Frey know she would be a southpaw on the links? When her father handed her a set of clubs at the age of three, she hit the right-handed clubs backwards.
3. Kristin Vincent
Vincent is one of the best female golfers in North Carolina high school history, as she holds the scoring record in that state. She followed her sister Jessica to North Carolina State before transferring to the University of Kentucky after one season. There she excelled by recording seven top-ten finishes in collegiate play while setting the school’s record low round of 65 along the way. She graduated from Kentucky in 2010 and turned pro the following year, and boast five top-fifteen finishes in Suncoast Series golf events. However, she has yet to earn any money on the Symetra Tour. Perhaps we’ll see her on the LPGA circuit in a few years.
2. Carolane Gariepy
Gariepy’s dream is to play on the LPGA someday. Born in Montreal, her family moved to Murrietta, California, and she took up golf at age 11. In 2010, she won the Los Angeles City Championship. After winning HSGametime’s Golfer of the Year award in back-to-back years as a high school golfer, Gariepy was offered a golf scholarship at Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo, where she is competing in her freshman season and studying mechanical engineering.
1. Hally Leadbetter
Right now, Leadbetter’s biggest claim to fame internationally is either her status as the daughter of famed golf instructor David Leadbetter and former pro Kelly Fuiks, or her informal “teaching” of pro standout Michelle Wie to hit left-handed. Currently, Leadbetter is competing at Division II Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, after transferring from the University of Arkansas following her freshman year in order to be closer to home. It’s hard to believe that Leadbetter favored horseback riding as a youngster, dismissing golf as “too boring.” But she picked up some clubs in middle school, played in a state championship tournament in eighth grade, and the rest is history. One of Leadbetter’s goals for 2014 is to be the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. She seems to be doing well, having won the 2013 Women’s Southern Amateur tournament. If she is unable to pursue her dream to play golf professionally, Leadbetter may want to try her (left) hand in broadcast journalism.
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