NEW YORK — Marilynn Smith, who helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950, when the women’s game was barely a blip on the national sports scene, and went on to win 21 tour events, including two major championships, died Tuesday in Goodyear, Ariz. She was 89.
Her death, which was announced by the LPGA on its website, left Marlene Bauer Hagge and Shirley Spork as the last survivors among the 13 pioneers of the women’s tour.
The LPGA said Ms. Smith, who would have turned 90 on Saturday, made her last public appearance March 24, greeting players as they walked off the 18th green at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup tournament in Phoenix.
During its first season, the LPGA sponsored a dozen or so tournaments, with prize money totaling just $50,000. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, an Olympic track and field champion in 1932, and Patty Berg were the main draws at first, but Ms. Smith, as well as cofounders such as Hagge, Louise Suggs, and Betty Jameson, became prominent golf pros in their own right.
Last year, the LPGA sponsored 32 events in 13 countries with $65.35 million in prize money.
Ms. Smith captured the 1963 and 1964 Titleholders Championship, an LPGA major tournament of her era, which was played at Augusta Country Club in Georgia, adjacent to Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters. She won her first LPGA tournament in 1954 and her last in 1972.
While serving as LPGA president from 1958 to 1960, Ms. Smith was instrumental in founding the organization’s teaching division, now known as the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Membership. She gave clinics throughout the United States and in 37 other countries and was the first woman to be a television analyst for men’s pro golf tournaments. She worked with ABC at the 1973 US Open, at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, and the Colonial, in Fort Worth.
She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.
The LPGA was the successor to the Women’s Professional Golf Association, which was founded during World War II but disbanded in 1949 after incurring financial difficulties. In the LPGA’s early years, it struggled as well, receiving little notice in the press or on the radio and having no TV exposure.
Ms. Smith, an exuberant woman who seemed just right for publicizing the tour, was given the nickname Miss Personality for her cheerleading.
Marilynn Smith was born on April 29, 1929, in Topeka, Kan., to Lynn and Alma Smith. Her father was an insurance executiv
Ms. Smith received the first Patty Berg Award for distinguished service to women’s golf in 1979. In her later years she sponsored a tournament raising scholarship money for female high school seniors planning to continue to play golf in college. She played recreationally until she was about 70.