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Female Firsts in Sport

By Chuck Abbott, 02/03/22, 2:00AM EST

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These ground breaking women have achieved something no woman has achieved before.

  • 1938: Babe Zaharias, the first female to play on the PGA Tour in the Los Angeles Open. She shot 81-84 and missed the cut. She gave the tournament another try in 1945. This time she made the cut with scores of 76-81, but failed to qualify for the final round after a 79 in the third.
  • 1967: Kathryn Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
     
  • 1970: Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby aboard Fathom. She finished 15th.
     
  • 1977: Janet Guthrie, became the first woman to drive in the Indy 500. She finished 29th as a rookie in 1977 because of mechanical problems. She was ninth the next year.
     
  • 1977: Shirley Muldowney, became the first woman to win a national drag racing championship in Ontario, Calif. She won the Winston World Points Championship that year and again in 1980 and '82, making her the first driver, man or woman, to win the sport's most prestigious title three times.
     
  • 1979: Ann Meyers, first woman to sign and go to training camp with an NBA team, the Indiana Pacers. She did not make the roster.
     
  • 1985: Libby Riddles, became the first woman to win the Iditarod dog sled race in Nome, Alaska. She and her 13 dogs left Shaktoolik, plunging into a blizzard no other racer would challenge. She took an insurmountable lead and three days later won.
     
  • 1986: Nancy Lieberman, the first woman to play in a men's pro league -- on the Springfield Fame of the United States Basketball League. She later played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz summer league teams.
     
  • 1987: Maree Lyndon became the first female jockey to ride in the Melbourne Cup, on Argonaut Style. The first winner was Michelle Payne, who became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.
     
  • 1991: Julie Krone, became the first female jockey to ride in the Belmont (1991) and to win a Triple Crown event -- the 1993 Belmont on 13-1 long shot Colonial Affair.
     
  • 1992: Manon Rheaume, became the first female to play in an NHL game. She played in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the St. Louis Blues in an exhibition game, then again in an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins in 1993.
     
  • 1997: Violet Palmer, became the first female to officiate an NBA game.
     
  • 1998: Ila Borders, became the first woman to win a men's pro baseball game in Duluth, Minn. She pitched six shutout innings for the minor-league Duluth Dukes in a 3-1 victory over the Sioux Falls Canaries.
     
  • 2002: Katie Hnida, became the first woman to play Division I football in the Las Vegas Bowl. Hnida, a walk-on junior kicker for New Mexico, attempted an extra point in a 27-13 loss to UCLA. The kick was blocked.
     
  • 2003: Hayley Wickenheiser, became the first woman to score a goal playing on a men's professional hockey team in Helsinki, Finland. In two seasons with Finnish team Salamat in 2003 and 2004, she scored two goals and 11 points.
     
  • 2007: Sarah Thomas, became the first female to referee a major college football game (Football Bowl Subdivision) in a Nov. 17, 2007 game between Memphis and Jackson State. She was also the first female to referee a bowl game in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26, 2009, between Ohio and Marshall.
     
  • 2010: Jenny Higgs, became the first female chief umpire at Wimbledon.
     
  • 2010: Kelly Kulick, became the first female to win a Professional Bowlers Association tour title (45th Tournament of Champions).
     
  • 2013: Lauren Silberman became the first woman to attend an NFL scouting combine, only to suffer an injury as she tried out as a kicker.
     
  • 2015: Jen Welter became the first woman to coach in the National Football League in the United States when the Arizona Cardinals hired her as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason.
     
  • 2020: Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score in a major US college football conference game.