Judy Rankin Profile: Bio of the Golfer and Broadcaster

Long after her playing days ended, Judy Rankin enjoyed a career as an on-course reporter and analyst on golf broadcasts.
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Judy Rankin joined the LPGA Tour at a very young age and later become one of its biggest stars, although her playing career was cut short by back problems. In a second career, she became highly successful as a golf broadcaster.

Rankin's date of birth is Feb. 18, 1945. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, although she later became associated with Texas, living there for most of her adult life.

Number of Judy Rankin's Wins

  • LPGA Tour Victories: 26
  • Major Championships: 0. It's true, Judy Rankin never won a major. She did win a couple tournaments that were later accorded major championship status, but were not considered majors in the years of her victories.

Awards and Honors for Judy Rankin

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Vare Trophy (low scoring average), 1973, 1976, 1977
  • LPGA money leader, 1976, 1977
  • LPGA Player of the Year, 1976, 1977
  • U.S. Solheim Cup captain, 1996, 1998
  • Member, Texas Golf Hall of Fame
  • Recipient, USGA Bob Jones Award, 2002

Judy Rankin Biography

Judy Rankin was a golf prodigy who turned into one of the most popular players on the LPGA Tour, but whose career was cut short—and whose effectiveness even in her best years was curtailed—by severe back pain.

Rankin started golfing at age six. By 1960, she'd already won the Missouri Amateur and finished as low amateur at the U.S. Women's Open. Then she nearly gave up the game.

The World Golf Hall of Fame recounts the story in its profile of Rankin. When she was 16, Rankin lost in the second round of the British Ladies Amateur. She was fed up with golf and decided to quit. Two weeks later, an editor at Sports Illustrated called to ask if she'd be playing the coming U.S. Women's Open. The editor explained the magazine wanted to put a photo of Rankin on its cover, but only if she planned to play the Open. Rankin decided to start playing again, and never looked back.

She was only 17 years old in 1962 when she joined the LPGA Tour. Her first victory didn't come until 1968, but from then through 1979 Rankin won 26 times.

As a young up-and-comer, she wasn't well-received on Tour at the start. But by the time her career was over, Rankin was a beloved figure among her fellow pros, someone who epitomized sportsmanship and class.

A strong argument can be made that Rankin was the best player on Tour in the early to mid-1970s. She won three times in 1970, four times in 1973 (with 25 Top 10 finishes), six times in 1976 and five more in 1977 (again with 25 Top 10 finishes). Her earnings of $150,734 in 1976 nearly doubled the previous single-season record on the LPGA Tour. She won three Vare Trophies, two money titles and two Player of the Year awards in this time period.

What she didn't win, however, was a major championship, something that would always elude her. Rankin did win the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner's Circle (later renamed the Kraft Nabisco Championship) in 1976 and the Peter Jackson Classic (later renamed the du Maurier Classic) in 1977, two events that later were elevated to major status. But those wins are not counted as majors today because they weren't majors in the years in which Rankin won them.

Rankin kept winning through 1979, but her play deteriorated due to the effects of back trouble that was severe and plagued her throughout her best seasons. Her last full year on the LPGA Tour was 1983, when she was 38 years old, and back surgery ended her Tour days in 1985.

Respect and affection for Rankin is immense in the golf community. She served as an LPGA board member and, in 1976-77, Tour president. She was given the Patty Berg Award by the LPGA, the Bob Jones Award by the USGA, and the First Lady of Golf Award by the PGA of America. Rankin also captained Team USA in two early Solheim Cups, in 1996 and 1998.

When her playing days ended, Rankin embarked on a highly successful career as a golf broadcaster, which included being the first woman to work full-time on broadcasts of men's events. She joined ABC Sports in 1984 and worked primarily as an on-course reporter for ABC and ESPN on PGA Tour telecasts. On the Golf Channel, Rankin serves as the lead, in-booth analyst on LPGA Tour broadcasts.

Rankin also made two instructional VHS tapes: Judy Rankin's Break 90 in 21 Days, released in 1989; and World of Golf: Judy Rankin's Practice Tee, released in 1992. Neither is available on DVD, however.

She was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer in 2006, but within several months was back at work as a broadcaster.

Judy Rankin Quotes

"I think she's the epitome of golf. She does so much for the LPGA," Juli Inkster once said of Rankin. A couple of quotes from Rankin herself:

  • "If it weren't for golf I'd be waiting on this table instead of sitting at it."
  • "I played all of my best years with severe back trouble. I would play a month and be a cripple a month. My goal was to stay on my feet."

Trivia About Judy Rankin

  • When Judy Rankin earned $150,734 in 1976, she became the first to win more than $100,000 in a single season on the LPGA Tour.
  • When she was low amateur at the 1960 U.S. Women's Open, at age 15, she was the youngest ever to finish as low amateur (a record later broken by Michelle Wie).
  • She played as Judy Torluemke from 1962-67 and as Judy Torluemke Rankin from 1968-73.

Judy Rankin Fast Facts

  • Full Name: Judy Torluemke Rankin
  • Spouse: Was married to Walter "Yippy" Rankin from 1967 until his death in 2012
  • Children: One son, Walter Rankin Jr., known as "Tuey" (a play on the number two, since he is a junior)
  • Occupation: Golfer, television broadcaster
  • Born: Feb. 18, 1945, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  • Key Accomplishments: Won 26 LPGA Tour tournaments; two-time LPGA money leader and Player of the Year; three-time LPGA scoring leader
  • Offbeat Fact: Rankin was awarded a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2013.