Senior Qualifies For U.S. Amateur Championship

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Joanne Travis is primed and ready for her second try at winning the United States Golf Association Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.

The tournament will be played Sept. 10 and 11 at the Honors Course in Oolewah, Tenn., a suburb of Chattanooga.

But before the Chaparral Pines Golf Club resident begins dreaming of a gold medal finish, she’s giving thanks she can even play.

Her gratitude is because she almost had to give up golf last spring after suffering serious injuries in a rollover accident near Round Valley Road on Beeline Highway.

“After that, I didn’t play golf,” Travis said. “I had soft tissue injuries, a bad back and was really sore for a long time.”

In fact, one of those professionals caring for Travis during her rehabilitation warned her she would most likely never play golf again.

But in June she gingerly returned to the course at first for a few holes and later for nine and finally in July she played 18.

“A miracle happened,” she said. “I didn’t expect to ever play again.”

With her game elevated to near the level it once was, Travis decided to try her luck at earning a berth in the Amateur Championships at a qualifying tournament held in late August at the Arizona Country Club in the Valley.

There, she was one of just five golfers from Arizona to be selected to play in senior golf’s big show.

But earning the spot didn’t come easy.

Entering the final hole of play, which was 490 yards and par 5, she and another golfer were tied for the last national qualifying slot.

Rising to the occasion much as she did as a Chicago area school pateacher and coach, Travis parred the hole.

When her competitor bogeyed, Travis knew she’d soon be packing for a repeat trip to the senior nationals.

For the Rim Country golfer, competing in a national championship has been a goal since 1959 when she first earned a roster spot on a boys golf team.

But that opportunity didn’t pan out.

“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 girls sports under the banner of the Girls Athletic Association (GAA).

The opportunities were limited, however, and golf was not among the sports offered.

She had only limited 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).”

Retirement brings opportunity

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.

Among her accomplishments is twice winning the AWGA state partners tournament.

When the opportunity to play in the USGA Senior Women’s qualifying tournament first arose in 2005, Travis jumped at the chance.

Now that she has the experience of having competed six years ago in the senior championships, the butterflies won’t be fluttering in her stomach for the upcoming national showdown.

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.”

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