History of Womens’ Professional Golf in South Africa
Although golf was being played at an amateur level and was enjoying rising popularity it wasn’t until the late 1970’s that the concept of women playing the game professionally was mooted.
Early prejudices remained and the South African Women’s Professional Golf Association was formally founded in the early 1980’s as the LPGA, by the late Jackie Mercer and WPGA multiple ex-President Lyle Nel, as there was a need for an Association as ladies were beginning to show an interest in coaching and playing golf for a living.
The association consisted of both a playing and a teaching division. A constitution was drawn up in this regard, rules and regulations were laid down and the membership started growing.
In 1988 the WPGA established the first South African Women’s Open (SAWO) which was held at Germiston Golf Club. The event was supported by some of the top lady professional golfers from the Ladies European Tour which led to strong relationships being built with international tours and bodies around the world.
In recognition of her service to women’s golf the leading amateur trophy at the SAWO was aptly named the Jackie Mercer Trophy in memory of one of South Africa’s finest women golfers and co-founder of the WPGA.
Today this trophy boasts a number of illustrious names, including a multiple winner, who went onto turn professional and is currently South Africa’s leading woman professional golfer, namely Ashleigh Buhai (nee Simon).
The success of the SAWO led to the WPGA hosting the inaugural WPGA Championship in 1989 at Observatory Golf Club which ultimately set the stage for future women’s professional events.
The WPGA has not walked alone in this mostly challenging journey, none of this would have been possible without the generous support of our valued sponsors and partners over the years.
As the WPGA and its membership we thank them one and all for embracing the women’s professional game as we continually strive to empower women golfers whilst growing the game and the membership.