The Remarkable Story Of The Golfer Who Won A Junior Event By 65 Shots, Turned Professional And Competed On The LPGA Tour Before Her 9th Birthday

Many golfers have turned professional at a very young age during the course of the sport's history, but none can rival Beverly Klass...

Beverley Klass playing in the Colgate European Women's Open of 1979 GettyImages-1328296418.jpg
Beverley Klass playing in the Colgate European Women's Open of 1979
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The organizers of the 1964 National Pee Wee Golf Championship joked that after Beverly Klass’ 65-stroke victory, it might be best if she did not play in it the following year. Beverly’s father, Jack Klass, listened to this and decided that she should instead turn pro and play on the LPGA Tour.

That is how an eight-year old ended up playing as a professional on the LPGA Tour in 1965. Her tour debut was at the Dallas Civitan Open, when she was eight years, six months and 13 days old. She played four events and won $31 in prize money.

The LPGA then changed its rules to prevent someone so young playing. Her father sued the LPGA and for a while Beverly Klass was unable to play in either professional or amateur tournaments. Her father was violent and abusive. Beverly Klass has given interviews in which she has described how he would beat her with a strap if he felt she was not practising enough. She frequently ran away from home.

Beverly Klass joined the tour in 1976. She did not win on the tour, her best results being two runner-up finishes in the 1984 season. Her best finish in a Major was tied 5th.

The Klass clause, as it has become dubbed, limits LPGA tour membership to those who are at least 18 years old. However many golfers have played on the tour at a younger age than this, either through sponsors’ exemptions or because some events have open qualifiers.

Lydia Ko won the Canadian Women’s Opens of 2012 and 2013 on the LPGA Tour as an amateur. The first of these was when she was 15 years and four months, thus making her the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event. She turned professional when she was 16 and a half, and was to win four more LPGA tournaments before she turned 18. She became World No.1, aged 17 years, nine months, and nine days.

Lucy Li was 11 years, 8 months, and 19 days when she played in the US Women’s Open of 2014. She turned pro aged 17 years one month and 4 days, on November 5, 2019. Earlier in the year the USGA investigated whether she still could retain amateur status, after she appeared in an advert in that January in which she played golf. But Li and her parents argued that she had not been paid either directly or indirectly for doing the advert and so she was allowed to remain an amateur, but with an official warning.

Lexi Thompson had qualified for the US Women’s Open of 2007 aged 12, and turned pro when she was 15 years four months and six days old. She won her first LPGA tournament, by five strokes, aged 17.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Roderick is the author of the critically acclaimed comic golf novel, Summer At Tangents. Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.