Australian golf trailblazer Margie Masters – who was once targeted by a sniper when on the tee – dies in Arizona aged 87

Margie Masters was once targeted by a sniper, had a novel explanation for kangaroos and helped set a crucial precedent in United States immigration law.

These were all parts of Masters’ trailblazing life in Australian and American golf.

Masters has died in her adopted home of Tucson, Arizona, aged 87.

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She was the first Australian to play on the LPGA tour, winning the 1965 rookie of the year award.

Masters won one LPGA tournament in 1967, when she was also runner-up at the Western Open.

Before competing in the US, Masters had an outstanding amateur career that featured the 1958 Australian and 1964 Canadian titles.

She won five Victorian Amateur championships and nine club titles at Woodlands in Melbourne’s south-east.

Masters is in the Victorian golf hall of fame and the women’s club championship trophy at Woodlands is named in her honor.

But her impressive competition CV doesn’t do her justice.

Australian golfer Margie Masters (R) has died in the United States aged 87. (PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO) Credit: AAP

There was no Australian professional women’s tour until 1972 and Masters, noting her scores stacked up with what was being carded in the LPGA, went to the US.

“It was nice being the first Aussie on their tour. They kept asking me about kangaroos – I got so sick of it I told them they used to deliver the mail which they carried in their pouches,” she said in a 2013 interview.

“But people were so good to me and I made some fabulous friends.”

Life on the pro tour had its moments, such as the Florida tournament where Masters and LPGA founder Marilynn Smith were shot at by a sniper while playing together.

“I backed away from a shot because I had second thoughts about my alignment just as a shot ranged out,” Smith once wrote.

“A .45 Magnum bullet zipped past my head, exactly where I had been standing. It penetrated the ground inches from the scorekeeper’s foot.

“We all hit the ground, Margie, our caddies and the scorekeeper. Six or seven shots sprayed out over the golf course.”

Eventually convinced by the tournament director to keep playing, Smith said she and Masters were “quivering” as they somehow made the cut.

The gunman was never caught.

Another facet of tour life that was not dangerous, but tiresome, was American immigration law.

Every six months, Masters would have to leave the US and return.

Thanks to a friendly immigration official she had met through her frequent travels, Masters challenged the rules.

Her immigrant visa petition eventually led to the Matter of Masters, a 1969 precedent that had a profound impact on other professional athletes wanting to live and compete in the United States.

“A lot of other sportspeople. Including a very good tennis player, were then able to come in under that category after that, so I was quite proud of it,” she said in the 2013 interview with Australian Senior Golfer.

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