Jo Ann Washam, a three-time LPGA Tour winner from Auburn who turned pro after playing basketball and golf at Washington State University, died Friday night at age 69 in a South King County hospital.
Washam went to WSU on an Evans Scholarship, awarded to teenagers who generally caddie or work in the golf industry. She is believed to have been the first girl from the Pacific Northwest to be awarded one. She played in national championship tournaments for both the Cougars golf and basketball teams. She was a 5-foot-3 guard but had good distance off the tee despite her lack of height. She was inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982 and into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
Washam had diabetes and underwent heart bypass, back and neck surgeries in middle age. In the past year, she had dealt with a fracture and an infection.
In addition to her three LPGA victories, Washam won two team events in her pro career, the first with Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1976 and the other with her close LPGA friend Nancy Lopez in 1979.
Washam made LPGA history in 1979 at the Women’s Kemper Open when she made two holes-in-one during the tournament. She played on the LPGA Tour from 1973-1989 and finished ninth on the money list in 1980 with $107,062, a year with 12 top-10 finishes.
She was a local celebrity when she played in the Safeco Classic at Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent and her best finish was second to Juli Inkster in 1983.
After leaving the LPGA Tour, she taught golf in Florida and then at The Home Course in DuPont. In recent years, she had been a volunteer assistant golf coach for boys and girls teams at Enumclaw High School, where her niece, Kim Washam Herd, is vice-principal.
Washam won the women’s championship at what is now called the Auburn Golf Course for the first time at age 13. She received instruction and encouragement from Auburn pro Guido “Torp” Peluso and in a 2011 interview she called him “special, special Torp” and said he was “instrumental in just about everything I did.”
Arrangements are being handled by Price-Helton Funeral Home in Auburn. Plans are being made for a celebration of life event in mid-January, said Washam Herd, who added, “She was always an amazing aunt.”