How JoAnne Carner shot (and broke) her age… and she’s 83!

JoAnne Carner, 83, announced her retirement from professional golf at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open this past week after a remarkable career that dates back to the Eisenhower Administration, more USGA championships than any other woman, 43 LPGA Tour victories, and numerous other honors and accomplishments.

“I never say goodbye, but goodbye!” After her missed cut, the lady who became known as “Big Momma” stated.

But don’t be deceived by the statistic of a missed cut. As amateurs enter their latter years, Carner realized a goal for many of them.

Carner shot her age. Not just once, but twice, on her route to the missed cut at NCR Country Club.

How about this, if that doesn’t impress you? She shot or beat her age four and five times in the competition since it began in 2018 with the two 83s in the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open. And she wasn’t really pleased about it.

Prior to the competition, she said that she had set a goal of making the cut and that this was “finally” the week she felt she had a chance.

Carner remarked after her round on Friday, “I get a lot of people talking to me as I play, even the players all congratulate me.” “I’m not very enthusiastic about it because I shot 83. But it’s nice to hear from them.”

How can Carner maintain such a high level of play at such a young age?

She responded before the match in a very on-brand manner, “Hard work.” “It’s just hard work trying to get the whole game going. I let it go too bad.”

She said that getting her game ready to compete in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open this year required a lot of effort. She has participated in all four iterations of the competition because to a 10-year exemption granted to all U.S. Women’s Open champions when the competition first began.

She went through everything she had done. Particularly in the bunkers, which she attributes as the secret to the current resurgence.

More knee flex during setup is Carner’s solution

“I played so awful — I let my game go to pot. Everything was terrible, so it was like starting all over from scratch,” Carner said. “I went to Justin Thompson, who I have taken lessons from there at Pine Tree in Florida, and he started me — because I just wouldn’t turn. As you age, nothing wants to move, so I did some stretching at home. But let’s go back to the point.

“I’ve always been a superb bunker player, and I couldn’t even get out of the sand down there — well, I could get out but not hit the proper shot. Finally I asked him to check what I was doing. I was bent over like L-shaped trying to play a bunker shot.

Instead of sticking your head in the dirt to go down there, he suggested that you merely bend your knees.

“I have a friend who when I would take lessons from her, she said, ‘Do you get nosebleeds?’ And I said, no, what are you talking about. She said, ‘Well, your head’s buried.’ She would call me the ostrich. So I have to watch it when I’m playing, and as I get tired on the back side I want to lower my head, and then you can’t turn your shoulders under your chin. It’s a flaw, I think, of a lot of older players. They just start bending over but keep the neck up.”

By increasing her knee flexion during setup, she relieved some of the strain on her back and got herself into a more athletic stance to begin her swing. The effectiveness of the advice was quick to begin. She gained confidence all of a sudden, yet continued to sound as if she was honing her skills as if she were still in the prime of her profession.

“There is hope [for my game],” Carner said Wednesday, “but yesterday I hit — I couldn’t hit the driver anywhere. In fact, after finishing, I went to the driving range so that when I got back down there, I could warm up with some wedges and such. We need to improve the clubs we’re using, so I approached my caddy, Trevor, and asked, “Trevor, what are we hitting out all day?” He’s like a driver with a 3-wood. That is what I focused on, so.

She was presumably grinding as if it were still her prime. After her first round on Thursday, she returned to the range to improve on her driver. She said that she enjoys competing.

“I just love everything about it. I was always happy to go play by myself. If you miss a green, can you make the recovery shot,” Carner said. “I played a lot of really good recovery shots, but where the pins were, you really had — if you missed it on the wrong side, you had no chance.”

Her CV, which spans eight decades, supports her expectations. She has won eight USGA championships, one more than any other woman and one more than any man. The two men who had the most at nine? only Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones. Aware of them?

Carner is the only golfer, in contrast to Woods, to have won the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Only Woods can make that claim for the corresponding male championships.

She possibly found it difficult to summarize her career because of this.

“Sum it up? Have you got an hour? I’ve had a great career,” remarked Carner. “Starting public links golf, daughter of a carpenter and a housewife, and used to hunt golf balls to pay for golf and take the neighbor kids to the movies and whatnot.

“Then from there, you start taking a club to knock the weeds down to hunt the golf balls, and from there, we could play at this little nine-hole public golf course after the paying customers, so I learned to play moonlight golf with two of my sisters played at that time when I was young, and then the neighbor boys.

“From there. just progressed.”

Despite her “bad golf” this week, it was nevertheless mentioned as one of her career’s finest moments.

“Right now my age, I guess,” she said. “Shooting my age, which is terrible. It is. I do better than that at home.”

She also said to Golfweek that she planned to continue playing at home. Helen Sherry, her sister, started playing the game when she was 70 years old and is now 91. Carner said she’s eager to keep playing Helen Sherry.

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