Canada's First Golf Champion Reflects on 1968 KPMG Women's PGA Victory
Before Sandra Post teed it up in a playoff against Kathy Whitworth in 1968, she sat down with Mickey Wright and Susie Berning – legends, both – who asked how she was feeling and what she was thinking.
“I said, ‘Well it’s great I’m going to be runner up,’ ” Post, 20 at the time, recalls with a big laugh. “I looked at Mickey Wright and Susie Berning like, ‘I need oxygen.’”
She was not, however, the runner up. After a sizzling start to the playoff in 1968 where Post was 3-under through three holes, she topped Whitworth to win the then-LPGA Championship – now the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Post was the first Canadian to win a major – male or female – and her victory earned her Rookie of the Year honors on the LPGA Tour that season. She skipped college, turned pro at 19, and after a decade-and-a-half on the circuit she ended up with eight victories – tied with Mike Weir and George Knudson as the most by a Canadian on the LPGA or PGA Tour until Brooke Henderson came along – and 20 runner-up finishes.
Now, 55 years on, Post recalls that week at her major with fondness and joy.
“It seems like a lifetime ago,” Post says with a smile. “There was a lot of firsts. As a rookie, I was wide-eyed and the golf course was fantastic and after four rounds, I didn’t even know what I was doing.”
Taking on a Legend
Back then, Post was used to playing only three-round events. This was set to be her first four-round tournament. Whitworth, who passed away in December of 2022, was already an icon in women’s golf. She was someone Post had looked up to and known since she was 13.
Post held the first-round lead after an opening 72 and finished with a 2-over 294 after regulation, tied with Whitworth. The pair would return to Pleasant Valley Country Club (about an hour from Boston) for an 18-hole playoff the following day.
That Sunday night after Post had her chat with Wright and Berning, she didn’t get a nice, full night’s sleep, however.
She instead drove to pick her father up from the airport, who had flown down to cheer her on in the Monday playoff. The 1968 Canadian Open had wrapped up on Sunday with Bob Charles topping Jack Nicklaus by two shots. So, unbeknownst to her, on the same plane as her father was plenty of Canadian press corps – all ready to write about her attempt to win a major, too.
“None of us got any sleep,” remembers Post.
That late-night effort didn’t seem to bother Post, however. She opened with three birdies in a row (“The ball just kept going in the hole,” she says). A great start. Whitworth, however, made an eagle on the par-5 second and was 3-under through four holes, too.
Whitworth took the lead after Post made bogey on No. 7 and the duo went back and forth for five more holes until a two-shot swing spelled the end of Whitworth’s charge. Post got it to 7-under through 16 holes. Although she would bogey Nos. 17 and 18, Whitworth made an unfortunate quadruple-bogey 8 on the penultimate hole of the day. She finished at 2-over while Post captured the title after a 5 under 68 – the only under-par round by anyone that week.
The playoff round was highlighted by a 35-foot chip-in on No. 13 and a blind-shot wedge that found the bottom of the cup on No. 16. That shot earned a cheer from Whitworth, who was someone who had encouraged Post to turn professional. According to an Associated Press report from the day, there were 15,000 people in attendance for the finale.
“She was an incredible person and kind. I just remember her and her kindness,” says Post of Whitworth. “I was just out there trying to put one foot in front of another.”
Canada’s Forever First Golf Champion
It would be 10 years before Post would win again on the LPGA Tour, although she captured titles in both Australia and Japan after her triumph at Pleasant Valley. “Life got in the way,” she says with a laugh, about the other winless years.
Post finished fifth in Canada’s Athlete of the Year voting after her breakthrough win in 1968 (it was an Olympic year, after all, and the winner, Nancy Greene, was a gold-medal and world-championship winning skier that year) but she noticed something about women’s sport that year – something she never stopped pushing forward.
“(In 1968) I thought, ‘Wow.’ I had so much work to do to elevate in my country and move the LPGA and professional women’s golf along if I had finished fifth (in the Athlete of the Year voting). That was always on my mind,” says Post, who did end up winning that Athlete of the Year honor in 1979 after three LPGA Tour victories.
These days, Post still appears with a big smile on her face at events to celebrate her past accomplishments. She’s a two-time winner of the now Chevron Championship and was proudly in Houston in April. She’ll be at Baltusrol Golf Club this week and cheer on her fellow KPMG Women’s PGA Champion and countrywoman, Brooke Henderson.
“I saw Brooke in Houston and I was so glad to see her,” says Post. “I believe in tradition. I believe in history. I’m very appreciative of KPMG, who chooses to recognize us.”
And even now, more than a half-century later, Post’s big, history-making win still registers with the Canadian legend.
“Major status has grown since then and has become more important. And,” says Post, “majors stay with you.”