When anyone starts listing the game’s greatest female champions, names such as Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs, Betsy Rawls, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Nancy Lopez, Kathy Whitworth, Babe Didrikson Zaharias and JoAnne Gunderson Carner immediately get jotted down. But add the U.S. Women’s Open to the equation and another player should be in the conversation: Susie Maxwell Berning.
Berning is one of six players to win at least three U.S. Women’s Open titles, and of her 11 career LPGA Tour victories, four were major championships. Those are remarkable accomplishments for anyone, but Berning, 78, often went overlooked among the pantheon of the female greats. Even when World Golf Hall of Fame voting came up for the female category earlier this year, Berning herself thought she would be edged by 17-time LPGA Tour winner Dottie Pepper, who has been a fixture on television with NBC/Golf Channel, ESPN/ABC and CBS the past 16 years.
“In the golfing world, if you are not my age, they don’t know my name,” said Berning. “They don’t know who I am. I really appreciate the World Golf Hall of Fame considering me and selecting me.”
Berning, who was born in California but honed her skills as a golfer in Oklahoma City, Okla., is the last of the six players to have won at least three U.S. Women’s Opens to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame, joining Wright, Rawls, Zaharias, Sorenstam and Hollis Stacy.
“I’m excited for Susie,” said two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Beth Daniel, a co-chair on the selection committee. “The thing that makes her stand out is her four majors, which she won while juggling a family. There are very few women in the history of golf that have been able to do that, and it lets female golfers know they can have a family and a career. Nancy Lopez did it. Juli Inkster did it. But before them, Susie Berning did it.”
Berning was the fourth and final member of the Class of 2021 to be announced by the Hall of Fame. Nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods, 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and golf pioneer Marion Hollins, and recently retired PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem were previously announced. The induction ceremony will either be held next March prior to The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., or in June, before the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
“I won my three [U.S. Women’s] Opens before Tiger Woods was born,” Berning said, laughing.
“This is quite an honor,” she added. “Just to be in the same room as Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin and Patty Berg. To be honored alongside them is something I thought would never happen. I never even thought about it. I'm now part of their family, which makes me very proud.”