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Vivien Saunders

Vivien Saunders with the AIG Women

One of the most important figures in the history of women's golf in Britain, Vivien Saunders was as accomplished off the course as she was on it.

Saunders played in the 1968 Curtis Cup before turning professional in 1969, one of the first women to do so in Britain. That same year, the British Ladies Stroke Play Championship was founded by the Ladies Golf Union. By 1976, professionals were allowed compete in the event, something Saunders was influential in campaigning for. Saunders herself helped put up greater prize funds for the Championship, with £500 eventually being on offer between the five professionals competing.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph wrote: "A modest start in moves to make British women's golf more attractive to the handful of home professionals... it is hoped that from such small beginnings will emerge a more sturdily-based competition structure that should benefit all levels of the women's game". Less than ten years later, thanks in large part to Saunders' work, the purse for the AIG Women's Open in 1984 was $200,000.

Saunders' record in the AIG Women's Open spoke for itself. She finished 4th in 1976, before winning her lone title in 1977 at Lindrick on countback over Mary Everard due to a superb final round in tough conditions. Saunders then finished third in 1978, marking her third consecutive event as leading professional.

Off the course, Saunders was instrumental in the creation of the Ladies European Tour and the Women's PGA, and twice received the award for British Sports Coach of the Year. In 1998 Saunders received an OBE to services to women's golf.