22 years ago today, a young and talented up-and-coming LPGA tour player named Heather Elizabeth Farr lost her battle with breast cancer....she was a mere 28 years old. Even today I remember Heather with such fondness and admiration as it is directly because of her courageous battle that my career changed course and I ended up working in the professional golf business, too. It all started when I read this heart-wrenching story in Golf magazine back in 1992 on an LPGA player named Heather Farr who was struggling with all her might to stay alive - enduring chemo, surgery, quarantine room, high hopes, major setbacks, and yet persevered with the fighting spirit that made her such a talented and competitive golfer. By nature, I am not a crier but I cried when I read this article - in fact, I still have that magazine in my home office and occasionally pull it out and re-read the piece and it STILL makes me cry even more so now that Heather is gone all these years.
After reading that piece I felt deeply compelled to help this young lady out in some way so I mulled over what I could do and opted to form an LPGA pro-am team which would play in the August 1993 LPGA event held outside Chicago. My teammates and I raised funds, I sold sponsorships for our golf shirts, and we had co-workers and friends come out the day of the pro-am to cheer us on and they just gave us cash after the round to donate to Heather...it was all quite overwhelming and heartwarming to have people chip in so readily for a player many of them had never seen play on the pro circuit. All in all we raised around $4000 which I was so excited to share with Heather and family to help offset her ever-rising medical bills. Then the worst news of all came - Heather lost her battle on November 20, 1993 - and the world lost a beautiful soul. I still donated the money to Heather's family and they let me know how touched they were for the donation, now sadly, in her memory - but they told me it would help them deal with all of the medical costs associated with a protracted ordeal like Heather endured.
How did this pro-am team, and helping out Heather change my life? Profoundly as her story touched me to the very depths of my soul and it still gets to me as I have her to thank for getting me involved in professional golf, my sports media work, and so much more. I've insisted that since the pro-am and Heather's passing, I've had an angel on my shoulder who guides me, steers me towards people who can affect my career and most important of all, to live each day with passion and joy. Because of putting together the pro-am team, I met a bunch of the LPGA administrative staff, tour players and others who influenced the direction of my own career. Since then, I've earned teaching pro status, I've written and taken photos for hundreds of golf and sports publications, I made friends with several LPGA tour players and met their families and played in many more pro-ams and fundraisers. Along the way I covered a USGA tournament that featured Heather's sister, Missy Farr-Kaye, and we got to meet up as I was assigned to write an article on her and shared with her what her sister meant to me...and we both cried a little. For you see, I never had a chance to meet Heather or see her play golf on tour but I had the sweet pleasure to meet Missy, and her parents one other time when they were in Illinois for an LPGA event. It was comforting and a bit emotionally overwhelming to meet the people who were most important in Heather's life and I cherish the fact that I had these opportunities.
My dear friend, golfing buddy and all-around great gal, Annette Martin-Robbins, played on my pro-am team and today I am also thinking of her and missing her with all my heart. The morning of the pro-am I caught up with Annette to give her the logo'ed golf shirt (Parr's for Farr was our team name) and as we were in the locker room changing into these shirts I had one of my most favorite sports moments ever - I was alone in one corner of the locker room when all of a sudden the door opened and in walked Nancy Lopez - I was like a little kid all tingly and excited to see one of my favorite sports heroes in the same locker room as me!!!. Well I worked up the courage to go talk to her and told her about my pro-am team and raising money for Heather - well Nancy and Heather were good friends and Nancy was all smiles as she listened to me describe my team's mission - and she walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. No matter what else happened that day - it was one of the best day's ever!
So on this 22nd year marking Heather Farr's passing, I raise a glass in her memory, I look at her photo hanging in my office and remember to live each day to the fullest, and I thank her for being the angel on my shoulder who has influenced my career to this very day. Truly gone but not forgotten.
RIP - Heather Elizabeth Farr (March 10, 1965 - November 20, 1993)
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