Sixty-year-old Joanne Travis is just now realizing the dream of a lifetime -- to participate in the United States Golf Association Senior Women's Amateur Championship.
The former school teacher and coach from Chicago, now a resident of Chaparral Pines Golf Club, earned a berth in the prestigious national tournament by tying for fourth place at a USGA qualifying tournament held a week ago in Scottsdale. On the par 73 course, she finished at 82, overcoming an eight on one of the holes.
With the finish, she is now a member of Arizona's 10-person team entered in the championships Sept. 15 to 22 at Apawamas Golf Club in Rye, New York.
Travis said competing in a national championship has been her goal since 1959 when she first earned a roster spot on a boys golf team.
"I was excited and set my goals high, but officials found out I was a girl, and they wouldn't let me play on the team," she said. "There was no Title 9 in those days."
Disappointed by her exclusion, Travis continued to compete in girl's sports under the banner of the Girl's Athletic Association (GAA).
The offerings were limited, however, and golf was not among the sports.
She had few opportunities to play golf, but managed to take to the course whenever possible.
After graduating from college, Travis began a 30-year teaching and coaching career at three Chicago-area high schools -- Palatine, Forest View and Elk Grove.
During her tenure, she coached badminton, tennis, volleyball, softball and track and field.
Although she wanted to take up golf more seriously, her coaching and teaching duties limited the amount of time she could spend on the course.
"Sunday was about the only day," she said. "But I always loved the sport and had been told I had some (golf) talent. Being told that kept me interested in (golf)."
After retiring in 2001, Travis set a goal of living on a golf course, where she would have almost year-round golfing opportunities.
After scouring the country looking at sites, she settled on Chaparral Pines.
Since moving to Payson, Travis has seized the opportunities to play the Rim Country courses, joined the Payson Women's Golf Association and traveled the state playing in Arizona Women's Golf Association tournaments.
She and her playing partner, Sue Basso, are two-time defending champions of the AWGA state partners tournament.
When the opportunity to play in the USGA Senior Women's qualifying tournament arose, Travis jumped at the chance.
"(Tournament officials) put out a call for golfers with 18-and-under handicaps, so I thought I'd give it a try," she said.
Although she sports a 6-7 handicap, depending on the course, Travis admitted she's a tad nervous about representing Arizona and the Rim Country in the amateur championships.
"It's a challenge knowing I'll be playing against some of the best (senior women) golfers in the country, but it's something I've always wanted to do," she said.
"Some of those dreams I had years ago will finally come true."
Among those excited to see Travis finally have the opportunity to showcase her skills on the national scene is her close friend Sue Thompson, also a retired Chicago-area teacher.
"In the times she grew up, she never had the chance to really play," Thompson said. "Who knows, if she'd come along years later when women had more opportunities, she probably would have been a pro golfer."