Four-time LPGA champion Wendy Ward may get a chance to repeat some history in June when The Legends Tour comes to the Greater Seattle area. Now a cattle rancher with her husband in Edwall, Wash., Ward will make her debut as a Legends Tour player June 8-10, at the Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup presented by Boeing at White Horse Golf Club in Kingston.
Ward is also hoping for the opportunity to again play with the LPGA players who inspired her when she was just beginning her career. One player she plans to seek out is World Golf Hall of Fame member and 43-time winner JoAnne Carner, a native of Kirkland, Wash., who sought out Ward when she was a rookie in 1996.
Ward remembers playing a practice round alone that year at a tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla., when Carner, also playing solo, came up behind her on the course. The young Texan recognized the legend and told Carner she was welcome to play through.
“Play through?” Carner told Ward. “I’ve been running trying to catch up to you. I wanted to play a round with one of the rookies.”
The two moved to the next tee and Ward, one of the tour’s longer hitters at the time, laced her drive down the fairway as Carner watched. Closer to the end of her career than the beginning, the veteran pro stepped up and smoked her own drive to within five yards of the rookie’s ball.
“We got down there and she looks at me and said, ‘I can still hit it, can’t I?’” said Ward, who becomes eligible for The Legends Tour at age 45 on May 6. “Not only did she want to meet me, but she still wanted to test her game against one of the young guns.”
And so the reunion may happen when The Legends Tour rolls into town to play at White Horse Golf Club in June -- a possibility that excites Ward who stepped away from the LPGA Tour two years ago.
Since that time, Ward and husband Nate Hair have been busy tending about 100 head of beef cattle on their 300-acre ranch 30 miles west of Spokane. She also has been teaching golf lessons at The Creek at Qualchan Golf Course, a municipal course in Spokane, as well as helping coach at least one player on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour.
Ward left playing the LPGA Tour on a full-time basis in 2015, largely because of burnout, nagging physical ailments and a desire to spend more time on the ranch with her husband, three dogs, two horses and plenty of new-born calves.
In anticipation of becoming eligible for the Legends Tour, Ward discussed the tour with Legends player Michelle McGann and reconnected with some of the Legends recently in California during a tournament pairing Legends players and juniors. McGann assured Ward the competition was keen, but the long-time friendships were still intact.
“The Legends Tour really inspired Michelle and offered a new lease on life and golf,” said Ward, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cup team member. “Seeing how her whole perspective about competitive golf got rejuvenated was very encouraging to me.”
That is something Ward has also been seeking. A former three-time All-American at Arizona State and a member of three NCAA Division I women’s championship teams as a Sun Devil, Ward hopes her Legends Tour debut will be just the spark she needs to make golf fun again.
“I’m just excited that I have the desire and passion to compete again and to have another chance to enjoy my fellow competitors,” said Ward, the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
“I was really fortunate to join the LPGA when I did because I got to play with Hall of Famers like JoAnne Carner and Pat Bradley, as well as some of the younger players, like Azahara Munoz and this year’s ANA Inspiration winner, Pernilla Lindberg,” said Ward.
But this time, it just might be Ward who is seeking out Carner, also a former Sun Devil, for a practice round in Washington.
“It really brings it full circle now that I am of age to play on the Legends Tour,” Ward added. “To get to go back and be in the arena with them again is going to be a treat for me. We’ll see what the Golf Gods have to say about my game.”
For more information about the tournament or to buy tickets online, visit www.ClearwaterLegendsCup.com. For more information about The Legends Tour, visit www.TheLegendsTour.com.