Following Up With 'Big Mama': JoAnne Carner

February 28, 2005

When you consider the accolades JoAnne Carner has accrued in her legendary career - two U.S. Women's Open and five U.S. Women's Amateur titles, four Curtis Cup appearances, 43 wins on the LPGA Tour and three LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Awards - you'd think that she might rightly have kicked up her heels by now.

 Carner's five U.S. Women's Amateur titles rank her just one behind Glenna Collett Vare on the all-time list. (USGA Archives)

Hardly. Now 65, Carner, who earned the nickname "Big Mama" by her peers, still plays on the LPGA Tour - she made 10 starts in 2004 - and holds the LPGA record as the oldest player to make a cut. How does she account for her stamina?

"I have swing problems," she admits with a laugh, "but I've never had the yips."

The native of Kirkland, Wash., put herself on the map in 1956 when she won the U.S. Girls' Junior at Heather Downs Country Club in Ohio, defeating Clifford Ann Creed of Opelousas, La., in the final, 4 and 3.

"It was my first big win," says the Hall of Famer Carner, who still is the only individual to have won the Women's Open, Women's Amateur and Girls' Junior. Tiger Woods is the only male golfer to accomplish this rare triple (U.S. Junior Amateur, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open).

A year after her Girls' Junior triumph, Carner routed Ann Casey Johnstone, 8 and 6, to win the Women's Amateur at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Conn. Three years later, she collected her second Women's Amateur title with a 6-and-5 win over Jean Ashley. She defeated Ann Baker, 9 and 8, at the Country Club of Rochester (N.Y.) in 1962 for her third Women's Amateur title.

Her fourth Women's Amateur crown came at the expense of 2004 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Marlene Stewart Streit of Canada, a 42-hole thriller at Sewickley Heights Golf Club in Sewickley, Pa., in 1966. She defeated another legend for her fifth and final Women's Amateur title in 1968, earning a 5-and-4 decision over Anne Sander at Birmingham (Mich.) Country Club.

Carner then turned professional and captured the first of her two U.S. Women's Open titles in 1971 at the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., site of the 2004 Women's Amateur. Carner's 288 total was seven shots better than Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth. In 1976 at Rolling Green Golf Club in Sprinfield, Pa., Carner defeated Sandra Palmer in an 18-hole playoff.

When not on the golf course, Carner often can be found fishing or snorkeling near her home in Palm Beach, Fla., or in the Bahamas. She owns a 42-foot hatteras and loves going after yellow tail snapper.

Story written by Alan Bastable of Golf Magazine Properties.

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