When JoAnne Carner started shaping her golf game back in the 1950s, Inglewood Golf Club and the old Juanita Golf Course were her stomping grounds.
Carner, now 73, didn’t possess a bag of golf clubs at first, but a pair of deft hands used for ball hunting at Juanita with her brother, Bill Gunderson.
“We would clean them up and sell them on the weekend,” she said with a laugh about 90 minutes before teeing off last Sunday at the LPGA Legends Swing for the Cure Golf Tournament at Inglewood in Kenmore.
Carner, a World Golf Hall of Famer, had 43 tournament wins — including two U.S. Women’s Opens — during her career.
“We were allowed to play after the paying customers, so we played a lot of golf when everybody was having dinner,” said Carner about hitting the links as a youngster. “We used to play moonlight golf with the neighbor kids — there would be 10 or 12 of us. That’s why it never bothers me, people talking in my swing — growing up with them, everybody’s yelling in your backswing.”
A small, but loyal gallery of golf fans cheered for and joked with Carner — paired with fellow legend Nancy Lopez — as she strolled up to the first tee on Sunday. Carner and Lopez cracked nice drives to start their rounds, and many people followed the duo — the last to tee off for the day — along the course.
Bill McDonnell, who traveled from Mukilteo to attend the event with his wife, Sue, noted about Carner and Lopez: “Boy, they still got game.”
Carner finished with a 6-over 79 and tied for 24th on the Legends Tour stop, while Nancy Scranton picked up her fourth win on the tour with a 2-under 71. Lopez tied for 16th with a 4-over 77.
All proceeds from the Legends Swing for the Cure Golf Tournament will go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Puget Sound organization to fight breast cancer. About 1,000 people attended the event.
“Not only is Susan G. Komen such a great charity — everybody wants to do something to give back a little bit,” said Carner, who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla. “And, of course, being from this area and having played Inglewood a lot, it’s fun to be back here.”
Komen and Mulvanny G2 Architecture of Bellevue paired up to host the benefit tournament for the 10th year, and the first with the LPGA Legends on hand.
Gail Lapasin, Komen’s Puget Sound affiliate director of development, said that when breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages, there’s a 99-percent, five-year survival rate.
“That’s our most important message,” she said at the tournament. “People are walking away with a pretty full, robust experience: It’s a great sporting event, a great golfing event and something important for your health.”
Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised will help provide mammograms, treatment support and education for local women. Twenty-five percent of the net funds will go directly to global research to find a cure for breast cancer.
Mulvanny G2 board chairman Jerry Lee noted that the tournament raised $830,000 for Komen in the first nine years. (Sunday’s totals weren’t available at press time.)
“Every $150 we raise is for one mammogram,” said Lee, whose late wife, Patricia, died of breast cancer 15 years ago, and his current wife, Charlene, is a breast-cancer survivor.
“We were active with Komen when (Patricia) was alive, and after we lost her, we continued carrying the banner,” Lee said.
Back on the course, the McDonnells followed Cindy Rarick during her round. They met the Silvara vineyards co-owner in Leavenworth at their daughter’s wedding last summer and found out she’d be playing Inglewood.
“The course is beautiful, and Cindy’s playing really well, which makes it really nice to watch. The players are incredible,” Bill said. Rarick finished tied for 12th with a 3-over 76.
Carner said she’s just as competitive as ever on the Legends Tour. Her ball flight and speed may have taken a hit with age, she noted, but there’s no stopping her from giving her clubs a workout.
“I’ve always loved it. My husband used to say, ‘You know, you’d be happy if I dropped you off at eight in the morning and picked you up at dark at night.’
I can play with anybody or play by myself and just enjoy it,” said Carner, who learned to hit the ball long during driving contests with her brother’s buddies at Juanita back in the day.
Patty Sheehan, who tied for second with a 1-under 72 on Sunday, summed up the ladies’ feelings about golf after driving off the first tee. She turned to the crowd, waved and said: “If you can’t have fun, do something else.”