A BRIGHT LIGHT

A BRIGHT LIGHT

From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

A Bright Light

Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.

Arnold Palmer

It took a ravaging form of cancer to beat Heather Farr, the professional who died in 1993 at the age of twenty-eight.

Even against great odds, she was unaccustomed to defeat. Heather, the underdog, had always prevailed. Too short and too small, they said; couldn’t hit it far enough.

But Heather, who barely topped five feet, ignored the common yardsticks. Tee shots had nothing to do with the size of her heart. In that, she was a giant.

At the age of eleven, she brought Lee Trevino home to dinner. At sixteen, when told that the first step to the Curtis Cup was winning the Girls’ Junior, she won it the following week. At twenty, she refused all offers of sponsorship on the LPGA Tour. She had money to get to the first tournament and that, of course, would be enough.

From her first junior tee shot to her last professional putt, Heather Farr won ten state titles, a host of junior events, a couple of national championships and a million hearts.

“I don’t think anyone ever loved the game more than Heather did, ” said Sharon Farr, her mother.

Heather was five when she first joined her father on his weekend rounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Equipped with coffee and a blanket, they lined up at 3 A.M. for a tee time at Papago Golf Course. For three years she simply tagged along, then begged, “Let me hit it! Let me hit it!”

Heather was nine when she announced that she had entered a tournament. On that momentous day, she headed for the 1st tee while her mother waited in the cof- fee shop, chatting with another mother.

A few hours later, Heather returned in the company of a small, tow-headed boy who addressed Mrs. Farr’s companion. “Mom, you won’t believe what happened to me, ” said the boy. “I got hit in the stomach by a golf ball. What’s worse, it was hit by a girl!”

“I told him not to walk out in front of me when it was my turn to hit, ” Heather explained. “Finally, the only way I could play was to ignore him and go ahead and hit the ball. He turned around, and it hit him right in the stomach.”

The boy, future U.S. Amateur champion Billy Mayfair, jerked up his shirt to reveal the dimpled imprint of a ball. “And this is how hard she hit it, ” he announced.

Despite the mishap, Heather’s lifelong love of competition had begun.

“We had no idea what her capabilities or limitations were, ” Sharon said. “Only she knew that. We didn’t know which courses she liked to play, so we told her to make her own schedule and we’d do our best to get her there.”

Heather learned in victory, one memorable day winning a junior event in Phoenix in the morning and a Tucson tournament in the afternoon. And she learned the bitter lessons of defeat. Leading the ten-and-under division of the Junior World Championship, she was alarmed by the size of the gallery and five-putted the final green to finish fourth. It was simply a mistake, she said, one she would not repeat.

She lost so many balls that she was forced to borrow one on the final hole of the Orange Blossom Classic. The youngest, smallest player in the tournament, she suffered the added humiliation of finishing dead last.

“We were leaving the tournament, and Heather stood in front of the scoreboard for a long time while we waited for her, ” her mother remembered. “When she turned around she said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing—I’m never going to be last again.’ And she never was.”

At home in Phoenix, Heather signed up for a weight-training program at a local gym. She may have been smaller than the other players, but she could get stronger.

By this time, she was also under the tutelage of U.S. and British Open champion Lee Trevino. At the age of ten, with typical bravado, she had taken a newspaper clipping about herself to the Phoenix Open and asked the pros to sign it. Only Trevino paid serious attention to the tiny girl in tennis shoes, stopping to read the entire article, then offering encouragement.

That summer, Heather wrote a letter. “Dear Mr. Trevino, When you’re in town next time, why don’t you come over for dinner?”

At the next Phoenix Open, Trevino spotted her. “You wrote me that letter, didn’t you?” he said. Trevino turned to Heather’s mother and laughed, “That little sneak put her picture in it. Well, when’s dinner?”

“Heather told him to pick a night, ” Sharon recalled, “and, bless his heart, he showed up when he said he would, walked into the house, grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, and became just one of the family.”

Over the years, Heather and Trevino visited often. He taught her shots, amazed at her ability to soak up his instruction.

“They had this wonderful, warm friendship, ” Sharon said. “He even taught her how to work on her clubs and change the grips, telling her to never let anyone do anything to her clubs if she didn’t know what they were doing. When he gave her a 4H-wood, he said, ‘Heather, you’re going to do a lot of damage with this.’ And she did.”

One extraordinary winter day, Trevino telephoned, urging Heather to come to Dallas to play at Royal Oaks Country Club, a tight, tree-lined layout where he liked to practice.

“But Dallas is having an ice storm, ” Heather protested. “We can’t play Royal Oaks.”

“Come on down. We’ll work it out, ” Trevino said.

Heather made the short flight to Dallas. In the bitter cold on a deserted Royal Oaks fairway, Trevino pulled out a pocket knife, cut out a square of sod, pulled it back from the bare dirt, and built a bonfire. Warmed by the fire, the great professional and the little girl laughed and talked, hitting golf balls to their hearts’ content.

Little Heather was on her way to big things. At sixteen, she shared medalist honors in the 1981 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She wasn’t long, but she could smack a fairway wood closer to the hole than most players could hit a wedge. Thanks to Trevino, she had a great short game. Best of all, she believed in herself.

“Heather had a walk of confidence like nobody I’ve ever seen in my life, ” said Tom Meeks, a USGA official and longtime friend. “She walked like she knew exactly what she was trying to do and how she was going to do it. There wasn’t any question in her mind that every time she went out to play she was going to have a successful round.”

In 1982, she attended the Curtis Cup Match on her way to the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Enthralled, she asked an official how to win a spot on the team. “Winning the Girls’ Junior next week would be a good start, ” the official kindly replied.

Heather said only, “Okay.” She may as well have said, “Done.”

After that win, Heather finished as low amateur in the U.S. Women’s Open the following summer. A berth on the 1984 Curtis Cup team was hers.

Her travel diary from that trip to Great Britain is the only written record Heather left behind. In rounded, youthful script, she recorded what she considered to be the greatest adventure of her life.

At Golf House, “P. J. Boatwright tells us not to be polite but to win as big as we can.

“June 3—Toured the R&A club. Actually got to see the whole thing! The upper balcony has the most awesome view . . . then ate lunch at the St. Rule Club. Glenna Collett Vare sat three people away.

“. . . At dinner, received our Curtis Cup pins. Something so small means SO much.”

Of a practice round at Muirfield, site of the match, she wrote, “The afternoon was so clear. Looking out over Muirfield was such an unbelievable experience. The course was out there waiting for us.”

Perhaps exhaustion kept her from writing much about her opening foursomes match. She wrote simply that it was an exciting match that her team won, 1-up.

“Yes, Heather was full of beans and ready to play, ” said Tish Preuss, the 1984 Curtis Cup captain. “A little cocky, but that’s good; that’s just the way she was. She was happy-go-lucky. She knew she could play, and she proved it.”

Preuss recalled that her team had only a one-point lead going into the final round.

“And on the 1st tee, Heather said, ‘Don’t worry about me, Captain. I’ll win my point.’” She did, of course.

Judy Bell, former Curtis Cup team captain, saw Heather play many times. “Every inch of her was positive, ” said Bell. “Her golf swing was traditional, orthodox. She worked hard. She worked on her mechanics, but she had the extra stuff to go with it. She had this fiber.

“That whole team was a real enthusiastic bunch, ” Bell continued. “She just took to it. She had never played in Scotland in her life, but pretty soon she was wearing a tam. Those were the best of her golf days.”

The U.S. team won the Curtis Cup match, and Heather cried at the closing ceremonies when Preuss quoted from Bob Ward:

“I wish you joy in all your days;

“I wish you sadness so that you may better measure joy.”

Heather then flew to Rapid City, South Dakota, and won the Women’s Amateur Public Links. Still happy and carefree, she joined Meeks and others on a victory ride down the rapids. Giggling in ecstasy, she floated down a creek on a huge inner tube. When the creek wound through the golf course and under a bridge, USGA committee members bombarded the new champion with water-filled balloons.

The best of her golf days, yes.

She turned professional and at twenty was the youngest player to emerge from the 1986 LPGA Qualifying School. With her little bankroll, she hit the tour. Heather was once again meeting her agenda. Life was so sweet and bright that she thought every month was May, never guessing that it was really November.

Heather Farr had a great short game and she could hit a driver from the fairway, pure and true. She had a small body, a great heart and a million friends. She had a short life, granted. But how it did shine.

Rhonda Glenn

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