Two-time USGA champion and former professional golfer Heather Farr inspired thousands through her battle with breast cancer, which eventually claimed her life in 1993 at the age of 28. The Phoenix, Ariz., native’s story helped raise awareness for the risk of breast cancer in young women.
Farr’s introduction to the game began early. From the time she was 4 years old, she and her father would walk to the popular Papago Golf Course, host of the 1971 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, to get in line early enough to play. According to her mother, Heather had no problem walking the long and hilly course. By the time she was 17, Farr was one of the country’s elite juniors. She won the 1982 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Greeley (Colo.) Country Club and two years later she claimed the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship title at Meadowbrook Golf Course in Rapid City, S.D. She earned a spot on the 1984 USA Curtis Cup Team, helping the USA claim the Cup at Muirfield in Scotland. She also helped lead the USA to victory in the 1984 World Amateur Team Championship in Hong Kong. In 1983, she earned low-amateur honors, tying for 11th in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Following three seasons at Arizona State University, Farr qualified for the LPGA Tour in June of 1985. Her best season would come three years later when she posted six top-10 finishes.
In 1989, at the height of her professional career, Farr found a lump in her breast. This discovery began a four-year battle with cancer that included a mastectomy, a 13-hour back surgery and a bone marrow transplant. Despite those setbacks, Farr continued to compete as often as she could. Following her initial diagnosis and treatment, she began practicing in the hopes of returning to the Tour in 1990.
Unfortunately, more cancer was found in her lower back. Farr underwent even more invasive and intense treatment than before, replacing part of her spine with a metal rod. Though still determined to rejoin the Tour for the 1993 season, more cancer was found at the base of Farr’s skull and in her pelvis. In November 1993, Farr was unable to recover from a surgery meant to relieve pressure in her skull.
Throughout Farr’s treatment, the golf community rallied to support her and her family. Prior to her bone marrow transplant, the Colorado Women’s Golf Association held a blood drive to donate the gallons of blood Farr needed.
In response to the growing medical bills her family faced in 1991, many LPGA Tour players donated some of their earnings. In the wake of Farr’s death, those closest to her continued raising awareness for breast cancer in young women, including Heather’s younger sister, Missy Farr-Kaye, herself a breast cancer survivor and runner-up in the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
The Val Skinner Foundation, created in Farr’s honor, has also hosted LPGA Tour pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer (LIFE) Event for the past 19 years. This year, the event raised more than $500,000, which will be donated to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Young Survival Coalition.
In Farr’s memory, the LPGA Tour annually awards the Heather Farr Perseverance Award to a player who has displayed perseverance and hard work throughout the season. Past winners include U.S. Women’s Open champions Se Ri Pak and Ariya Jutanugarn, as well as Lorena Ochoa and Beth Daniel.
This month, the USGA Golf Museum is highlighting Farr’s exploits with a temporary exhibit. On display is Farr’s World Amateur Team Championship jacket with pins representing golf associations from around the world, as well as her bag used in the WATC, and a photo of Farr posing with the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship Trophy.
Kylie Garabed is the collections assistant for the USGA Golf Museum. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.