USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship committee chairman Lew Ellen Erickson, who was a college golfer at Oklahoma State University and is a member of the USGA Women’s Committee, announced during the May 14 Rotary Club of Tulsa weekly meeting that Betsy King will be this year’s female recipient at the Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Awards on June 16. Betsy King spent 28 years playing on the LPGA tour. She won 34 tournaments including six major championships. She was elected to the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fames in 1995.
Her golfing career began playing collegiately at Furman University and she was on the 1976 national championship team that included future LPGA players Beth Daniel, Sherri Turner and Cindy Ferro. King was low amateur at the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open and then joined the LPGA Tour in 1977. She won her first tournament at the 1984 Women’s Kemper Open. She won three titles in 1984 and added 21 top-10 finishes earning LPGA Tour Player of the Year honors. From 1984 through 1989, King won a total of 20 LPGA events, more wins than any other golfer in the world, male or female, during that time period.
After that first win in 1984, King won at least once each of the next ten years, with a high of six victories in 1989. She finished in the top-10 on the money list every year from 1985-95, and again in 1997. King was named Player of the Year three times, won two scoring titles and three money titles. In 1993 she won a scoring title and the money title, but only one tournament. She finished second five times, including at two majors. She averaged a major a year from 1987 to 1992, then won a sixth major in 1997. The last of her 34 LPGA wins came in 2001. With her 30th win in 1995, she gained entry into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
King played for the U.S. in the Solheim Cup five times between 1990 and 1998 and was the captain of the 2007 U.S. team leading the team to a 16-12 win over Europe. She is the last American to date to be the leading money winner on the LPGA Tour. From 1996 to 2004, there was an event on tour, the Wachovia LPGA Classic, hosted by King.
King has been an active worker for charitable causes, organizing Habitat for Humanity house building projects in several U.S. cities and participating in Habitat Builds in Honduras and Costa Rica. She traveled with LPGA players to Romania in 1993 and 1994 to visit orphanages and work with orphan relief agencies. She has served on the National Board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and attended numerous FCA junior golf camps as an instructor and speaker.
In 1994 she received the Charles Bartlett Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, being recognized for unselfish contributions to the betterment of society. She received the 2001 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes former student athletes who have distinguished themselves since completing their athletic careers 25 years ago. In 1987 she won the LPGA’s Samaritan Award, which acknowledges humanitarian and charitable efforts by a tour player. She also received the national Pathfinder Award from the Indiana Sports Corporation for her commitment to youth initiatives.
King has had a passion for giving back her entire career, but in 2006 she took a trip to Africa that changed the direction of her life. She was invited by World Vision to join 12 women from around the U.S., to see the effects of HIV/AIDS and poverty on women and children. That trip motivated her to found Golf Fore Africa to raise funds and awareness to bring help to children and families in Africa. Since that trip King has returned to Africa eight times, including a trip to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2009, to raise funds for projects in Rwanda, Lesotho, Kenya, Zambia and Mali.
In 2014 King, through her charity Golf Fore Africa, plans to raise $1 million to bring clean water, improved sanitation, and hygiene training to 40,000 people in 117 rural communities in Zambia.
This year’s Iba Awards’ keynote speaker is in her eighteenth season as head coach of The University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team and is considered one of the top collegiate coaches in the nation, Sherri Coale. The male recipient will be 8-time pro bowler and NFL Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. Back by popular demand as master of ceremonies will be Seth Davis, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, in-studio analyst for CBS Sports’ coverage of college basketball and an award-winning writer.
The Iba Awards were created in 1994 by the Rotary Club of Tulsa to recognize an influential male and a female premiere athlete for their success in their sport, and more importantly, for being positive role models who give back to their communities – not only by donating to worthy causes, but by being personally dedicated and involved in their chosen charities.
The awards are named after Henry P. Iba, former Oklahoma State University basketball coach and coach of three U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He was an unparalleled success as a coach, a leader and a citizen and these awards recognize and honor athletes who best exemplify a high degree of citizenship in his image.