The tour for female golfers 45 and older is holding its first event this year at White Horse Club in Kingston. Ward will take a break from ranching in Eastern Washington to play and has been told to bring her “A” game.
Wendy Ward said she is getting nervous, just as she did at the start of a successful career on the LPGA Tour.
That’s because Ward, who has lived on a cattle ranch in Edwall, about a 45-minute drive northeast from Spokane for the past 18 years, is a rookie again.
Ward, who turned 45 in May, is making her debut this weekend on the Legends Tour at the Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup presented by Boeing at White Horse Club in Kingston.
The two-round event for players 45 and older takes place Saturday and Sunday.
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Ward, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour after starring for Arizona State, has not played much competitively the past three years, citing burnout.
She had plenty to keep her busy, working on the ranch and teaching at the Creek at Qualchan course in Spokane. Ward figured she played only 15 rounds last year, but has amped that up this year to get ready for the Legends Tour.
Pat Hurst, a longtime friend who won six times on the LPGA Tour and now plays on the Legends Tour, had a message for Ward when they saw each other recently.
“She said, I better bring my ‘A’ game,” Ward said. “The players are hungry to win and don’t want me taking away any of their money.”
That said, Ward won’t feel the same pressure that she did on the LPGA Tour.
When Ward needed a break from the pressures of the LPGA Tour, she had the ranch to go back to. How she came to the ranch goes back to her start on the professional tour.
It was then that she met caddie Nate Hair from Medical Lake, whose goal was to make enough money to get a ranch somewhere near his hometown.
“That is probably somewhat what attracted me to him,” Ward said of the man who is now her husband. “And when he said ranch, light bulbs went off — outdoors, animal.”
The two have about 100 cattle on the ranch, but she said that number has been as high as 150 to 160. For a while, she had a flat pasture where she would hit short wedge shots, and had a dog that would retrieve the balls.
Always, it was a place to recharge from the rigors of Tour golf.
“When I come home, it’s harder work but it’s always like a vacation,” she said. “There is no people, no one you have to measure up to and there are animals that need me.”
Nate caddied for his wife a handful of times on the LPGA Tour, and will be doing that for her this week in her Legends debut. On Monday, Ward will repay the favor by caddying for him at a U.S. Senior Open qualifier in Sequim.
And despite having no regrets about getting into ranching, Ward said the plan is to cut back or sell the place.
“We love the country, but the last two winters have been really tough, and we are not getting any younger, with sleepless nights in the middle of nowhere,” she said.
“We’ve probably had a dozen calves around our fireplace trying to save them (from the cold). It is fun when you are 20 and 30 doing that, but now that we are in our 40s and he just turned 50 last year … ”
• This is the first of four tournaments this year for the Legends Tour. There is a field of 30 in the no-cut event, and the total purse is $175,000, with the winner getting $25,000.
• First tee time is 10 a.m. each day, and the last is 12:20 p.m.
• Spectators are allowed to walk behind golfers on the course.
• There are fan shuttles from ferries arriving on Bainbridge Island and Kingston.
• Kirkland native JoAnne Carner, 79, two-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Open and considered the best woman golfer in the history of Washington state, is entered.
• Adult ticket prices are $15 each day or $20 for the weekend. Boeing employees with identification and Boeing retirees with Boeing identification admitted free. Tickets purchased in advance at www.ClearwaterLegendsCup.comget a 50 percent discount when code GOLF18 is entered in promo code box at checkout.