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Patty Berg, LPGA Tour founder, dies at 88

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ Patty Berg, the golf pioneer who won an LPGA Tour-record 15 major titles and was one of the 13 founding members of the tour in 1950, died Sunday. She was 88.

She died at Hope Hospice in Fort Myers of complications from Alzheimer's disease, the LPGA Tour said.

Berg was the LPGA Tour's first president from 1950-52 and was the tour's money leader in 1954, '55 and '57. She ended her career with 60 victories and is a member of the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.

``Patty was a wonderfully talented woman who was dedicated to golf, to growing the game and to making the sport fun for golfers of all ages,'' LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said. ``She was a pioneer, an athlete, a mentor, a friend and an entertainer. She had a sense of humor that sparked a smile in all who met her.''

Berg won the 1938 U.S. Women's Amateur and swept the 1937-39 Titleholders as an amateur for her first three major victories. After turning pro, she won the 1946 U.S. Women's Open, four more Titleholders and was a seven-time winner of the Women's Western Open.

``As a founder of the LPGA, Patty took the LPGA to new heights, and it was the work, passion and dedication that she and her fellow co-founders exhibited that has allowed the LPGA to grow and prosper for so many years,'' Bivens said. ``I, along with the entire LPGA family, mourn Patty's passing, but we will forever celebrate her legacy.''

Berg was The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1938, '43 and '55. She was a top all-around athlete before turning to golf in her teens. She even quarterbacked a sandlot football squad called the ``50th Street Tigers'' that featured former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson, a neighbor and longtime friend. Berg served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

The LPGA created the Patty Berg Award in 1978 for outstanding contributions to women's golf, an award she won in 1990. The Minnesota native is also a member of the All-American Collegiate Hall of Fame and the University of Minnesota Women's Athletic Department Hall of Fame.

Berg and the other LPGA founders were honored in 2000 with the Commissioner's Award. In 2002, she was the honorary chair for the 2002 Solheim Cup at her home course, Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn.
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