[TIMELINE] Hisaki "Chako" Higuchi - 1st Asian Woman to Win on LPGA Tour (1977)
- World Golf Hall of Famer Profile: Hisako "Chako" Higuchi
by Adam Schupak
Hisako "Chako" Higuchi was the first Asian woman to win on the tour
when she took the 1977 LPGA Championship. Ayako Okamoto won 17 times
on the tour.
During her playing days, Japan's Hisako "Chako" Higuchi was as
beloved as Arnold Palmer or Nancy Lopez in her homeland. Now she
will be enshrined with them, too.
Higuchi, a charter member and former star player on the Japan Ladies
Professional Golf Association (JLPGA), dominated the circuit during
the 1960s and 70s, ending her career with 72 victories worldwide.
She topped the money list in Japan from 1968 to 1976.
Higuchi was a pioneer on the LPGA Tour. In 1977, she became the
first and only Japanese player to win a major championship on either
the PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour when she captured the LPGA Championship.
Higuchi made her mark in golf with more than just her golf clubs.
She was selected for the Lifetime Achievement category for
championing the cause of Japanese golf, and continues to do so in
unparalleled acts of dedication and service to her fellow
professionals. As a competitor, she used her celebrity to advance
the cause of participation in Japan. In her current role as chairman
of the JLPGA, she brought back her experiences from the LPGA Tour,
implementing changes to the JLPGA and spearheading the creation of
many new programs.
"Chako's success here in the United States in winning the 1977 LPGA
Championship opened the door to the world and inspired her fellow
countrymen, both men and women, to follow in her footsteps," said
LPGA Commissioner, Ty Votaw. "Her election is not only in
recognition of her outstanding professional career, but also her
commitment and dedication to the growth of the game of golf in
2004 Induction Ceremony
The 2004 Induction Ceremony will be held November 15 at World Golf
Village. The Class of 2004 consists of Isao Aoki, Tom Kite, Charlie
Sifford, and Marlene Stewart Streit.
The World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will once again be
televised on The Golf Channel. The World Golf Hall of Fame Induction
Ceremony will be open to the public. Lawn chairs and blankets are
suggested for comfortable seating. More information will be made
available as the Ceremony nears.
This year's Inductees were Leo Diegel, Hisako "Chako" Higuchi, Nick
Price, and Annika Sorenstam. The World Golf Hall of Fame now boasts
Nick Price was speaking for himself. But those words, which came
directly from that big heart of his, also seemed to sum up precisely
what Monday's World Golf Hall of Fame inductions meant to them all.
Four people -- Price, Annika Sörenstam, Chako Higuchi and Leo
Diegel -- were united on this cool autumn evening by their
considerable talent and abundant joy in a game each played so well.
They came from different generations and diverse parts of the world.
But the four newest members of the Hall of Fame all shared the drive
and determination that enabled them to complete what Sörenstam
called a "journey" that has led them the biggest honor of their
"I am indeed very, very fortunate," Price said. "I was blessed with
the talent to do something that I love and enjoy and also make it my
profession. However, as we all know, playing golf well is just the
tip of the iceberg. There are so many other facets that one has to
learn and enjoy along the way.
"From the very first day I picked up a club while caddying for my
brother, Tim, I have been in awe of this game. I am still spellbound
by the way it continues to tease and to entice me back, again and
again, trying to perfect the imperfectable.
"A new swing thought here. A change of grip there. A different ball
position. A new putter to try. And if you love the game as much as I
do, it's amazing how it finds a way to call you back the very next
The game called Price back when he was 11 years old and locked
himself in the men's bathroom at his local country club because "I
was too scared to go out and play with three boys I'd never met." As
he got older, he became a fierce competitor and one of the game's
The game called out to Sörenstam, too, when she was a little girl so
shy she'd intentionally three-putt so she wouldn't have to hoist the
trophy and make a speech. Once she finally learned to how addicting
it was to win, she hasn't let up since.
The game reached out to Higuchi and called her back to her native
Japan to grow the game and provide playing opportunities for other
women like herself. The game spoke to Diegel, back in his heyday in
the 1920s, and told him to be bold and try to make a living at the
game when no one else had ever done so.
A military flyover by the Raging Bulls opened the ceremonies Monday
night at the World Golf Village and a display of brilliant fireworks
put an end to the proceedings. But the focus was clearly on the four
inductees and the impact they've had on their sport.
"Although they came from worlds apart, they have brought us all
closer together, and we are all the better for it," LPGA
Commissioner Ty Votaw said.
Price has won 41 times worldwide, including three major
championships. He was nearly without peer in the early 1990s,
particularly during the 1994 season when he won six times, including
the British Open and his second PGA Championship.
A two-time PGA TOUR Player of the Year, Price is as well-liked off
the golf course as he is accomplished on it. He has been honored by
his peers for upholding the traditions of the game and by the media
for his accommodating nature.
Price, who was inducted by his long-time teacher, David Leadbetter,
remains competitive at the age of 46. He's got two runner-up
finishes on the PGA TOUR this year, ranks 17th on the money list and
will return to his native Southern Africa next month to play in his
fifth Presidents Cup.
Price singled out his mother, Wendy, for teaching him about
sportsmanship and fair play, and spoke of the enduring support
provided by his two brothers, his wife and three children. He talked
about his long-time friendship -- both professional and personal --
with Leadbetter and his beloved caddy, Jeff "Squeeky" Medlin, who
died of leukemia in 1997.
"Without his presence in my life, I doubt very much I would be
standing here right now," Price said.
Like Price, Sörenstam certainly isn't done yet. In fact, she is
coming off the two best seasons of her life, and at the age of 33 is
still in her prime.
Sörenstam won 11 times last year, and while her victory total in
2003 hasn't approached that phenomenal, record-tying total, the
unassuming Swede has managed to make news in several other ways.
For one thing, Sörenstam completed the career Grand Slam when she
won the McDonald's LPGA Championship and Weetabix Women's British
Open. She also sparked the Europeans to victory in the Solheim Cup.
But it was her appearance in the Bank of America Colonial -- where
she became the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA TOUR event --
that enabled Sörenstam to capture the hearts of golf fans around
the world. She challenged herself and learned from the experience,
handling the entire week with tremendous poise.
Sörenstam, who was inducted by former LPGA Tour Commissioner Charlie
Mechem, has come a long way from that youngster who shied away from
the spotlight. So on Monday night, some 47 wins and 10 years after
she joined the LPGA Tour, Sörenstam took her place with the game's
Mechem opened his remarks by quoting his successor. "Annika has
taught us all the lesson that it is not good enough to be as good as
we once were," he said, "but to always strive to be better than we
ever thought we could be."
Sörenstam said that her induction into the Hall of Fame meant that
she had "achieved approval from those I respect." Her journey has
been one of affirmation and love for what she does.
Higuchi is the only player from Japan -- male or female -- to ever
have won a major on the PGA TOUR or LPGA Tour. Her victory at the
1977 LPGA Championship was one of 72 worldwide.
Higuchi was a charter member of the LPGA of Japan, which at the time
had just three tournaments a year. She dominated play in the 1960s
and '70s, leading the money list for nine straight years. Now there
are 30 players on the LPGA Tour from five different Asian countries.
But Higuchi, who opened her speech Monday night in English, wanted
more of a challenge. So for a decade, Higuchi came to the United
States and played several months a year. Meanwhile, the LPGA of
Japan was essentially stagnant.
"Someone called me and said, 'That's why we can't get more
tournaments -- because you're not playing here,'" Higuchi said. "So
I had to go back home and contribute."
Higuchi, who was enshrined by Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth, is now
chairman of the LPGA of Japan. And true to her word, the circuit now
has more than 30 tournaments. She called the induction "her greatest
Diegel was one of the first Americans to make his living as a
player. The Detroit native won 30 times, including consecutive PGA
Championships in 1928 and '29, before retiring to teach others the
game he loved.
Diegel, who was inducted by PGA of America President M.G. Orender,
played on four Ryder Cup teams. His instructional book, The Nine Bad
Shots of Golf, was dedicated to "the vast army of struggling golfers
whose swings need help."
Diegel, who had an unorthodox, elbows-out putting style people
called "Diegeling," was instrumental in the development of the