On April 4 my good friend, JoAnne Carner (glasses), will turn 60 years old. When JoAnne joined The LPGA tour—they were playing with hickory shafts—she was known as the Great Gundy (her maiden name is Gunderson) because she had won five U.S. Amateurs, thanks to a deadly mashie and niblick.
Every now and then in Florida, JoAnne and I play in a money match, and I hope she doesn't retire anytime soon. My bank account would really suffer. In a couple of years she'll be collecting Social Security, and we can really up the ante.
I think so highly of my pigeon that I named a horse after her: T.G. Gundy. That was the least I could do since JoAnne buys the hay. In Nashville one year she swaggered out of the locker room and announced that she was going to shoot her address: 30-30. To this day she still hasn't done it, but at least now JoAnne can brag that she's as old as her address: 30 + 30.
Seriously, though, JoAnne is a true pro, protecting the integrity of the game she holds sacred. My fondest memory of her is from the playoff between us at the'93 HealthSouth Classic. I had mixed emotions because she was, at 53, trying to break her own record of 46 years, five months and nine days as the LPGA's oldest winner. On the tee she turned to me and said, "Whoever wins, let it be with a birdie." When I rolled in the 15-footer for birdie on the first hole, her joy was obvious as she blurted, "You rat."
When I think of JoAnne, I see her stalking a putt, like a lion, from every angle. She has amassed 42 wins, including two U.S. Opens, plus three player of the year awards and five Vare trophies, but winning has never been her only priority. I often saw her in a bunker or on the chipping green giving a rookie or a veteran a lesson on her specialty—the short game. She has definitely given back to the game she loves, and I'm proud to call her my best friend.