At 83 years old, JoAnne Carner is one of the oldest active golfers in the world. Despite her age, she’s still quite spry and energetic. She even participated in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which was held at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut in late July 2021.
But what do we really know about The Great Gundy (as she was known before she got married)? Let’s both find out! Below are eight facts about JoAnne Carner, exploring her life, her favorite clubs, and everything in between.
She Didn’t Go Pro Until She Was 30
Throughout her professional golfing career, JoAnne Carner has one up to 43 times on the LPGA Tour. But what a lot of people didn’t know was that she started this winning streak only after turning 30. Before that, she mostly stayed within the Amateur tournaments. During this period, she won five U.S. Women’s Amateur titles (1957, 1960, 1962, 1966, 1968), putting her second only to Glenna Collett Vare (who won six).
JoAnne Carner also became a runner-up at least twice (notably in 1956 and 1964), as well as won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 1956. Then in 1966, she competed with Marlene Stewart Streit in what became the longest final match in US Women’s Amateur history. Carner did manage to outplay Streit, although she needed 5 extra holes to do so.
Carner’s last notable performance as an amateur golfer was at the Burdine’s Invitational, an LPGA Tour event. She was the last amateur to win an LPGA Tour until New Zealander Lydia Ko won the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open. Needless to say that by the time she embarked on her professional golfing career in 1969, JoAnne Carner already had incredible performance stats under her belt.
She Easily Won the 1971 U.S. Women’s Opens
However, it wasn’t until 1971 when JoAnne Carner made her mark in US Women’s golfing history. This was the year she participated and won the 26th U.S. Women’s Opens. Held from June 24 to June 27 at the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pennsylvania, this was where Carner earned her first U.S. Women’s Open title.
At her second round, JoAnne Carner was playing against Donna Caponi, who won the Open during the two previous years. According to newspapers that time, Carner ripped off three birdies and four bogies during the round. Meanwhile, Caponi made two bodies on her first two holes, three birdies on her next three, another birdie at her 8th hole, and a bogey at her 9th that proved her undoing. The round eventually ended with Carner defeating the two-time champion with a score of 143 (after finishing 36 holes).
After this hurdle, it was practically smooth sailing for JoAnne Carner. By the end of the final round, she outplayed Kathy Whitworth by a seven-stroke margin, earning her the championship. At the end of her second round, she reportedly said that she’d win if she didn’t three-putt the rest of the way. Indeed, she only had one three-putt during subsequent rounds. Carner was rewarded $5,000 for her victory.
Her 1976 U.S. Women’s Open Victory Was Harder to Earn
“The first might have been luck. But when you win a second, you feel like a pro.” JoAnne reportedly said this after the conclusion of the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open, as a Reading Eagle article noted. This tournament has seen Carner earning her second U.S. Women’s Open title, and she was the fourth golfer to have won it more than once.
However, JoAnne Carner’s second win didn’t come as easily as the first. Since the start of the tournament, she had to contend with Sandra Palmer, who was the defending champion at the time. Despite her stature, Palmer proved to be a very formidable opponent, with Carmer needing an 18-hole playoff before she could best her.
According to the Reading Eagle article above, Carner’s victory couldn’t be considered artistic either. They noted that her five-over-par 76 score is underwhelming for one of the greatest female hitters, especially in a clutch match. They also pointed out that at one point she blew a four-stroke lead with five holes to play. It was only thanks to a bogey and an eight-foot birdie putt that Carner managed to get to the 17th hole.
But artistic or not, the day belonged to JoAnne Carner. Aside from winning $9,000, she earned prestige during the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open. Sandra Palmer took her defeat in stride and even praised Carner.
She Was the Second LPGA Player to Earn $1 Million
After 1976, JoAnne Carner went on with her professional golfing career. Over the next 10 years, she participated and won in many LPGA tournaments, including the Golden Lights Championship in 1977, the HealthSouth Inaugural in 1980, and the Safeco Classic in 1985. By 1986, JoAnne Carner had earned around $1,931,189, making her the second female golfer in history to cross the $1 million mark in career earnings (after Kathy Whitworth).
This wealth accumulation was due to JoAnne Carner gaining prestige during the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open. After that tournament, the next ones she participated in paid her at least $100,000. In fact, she became the LPGA Tour’s leading money-winner three times, and the two tournaments she played in during 1985 earned her around $141,941.
When asked about her winnings, JoAnne Carner said that she’s gunning for the $2 million mark. “That’s really what I’m striving for,” the then 46 years old golfer said. “I strived for it last year, but I was sort of up and down on my game and I didn’t play well most of the year. It was a goal of mine last year. As it now stands, Pat Bradley (who’s currently at $1,794,197 back then) is closing in, but I plan to get there ahead of her.”
Whether she managed to reach $2 million that time is unknown. But since she was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame that year, it’s safe to assume that she did. In any case, her current net worth today is around $1.5 million.
Her Favorite Driver is the Wilson Laminate
Throughout her golfing career, JoAnne Carner is renowned for being one of the longest drivers in the women’s tour. Indeed, her average distance off the tee is usually around 275 yards, allowing her to basically set the tone for most of her games.
In a Q&A article from Golfweek, JoAnne Carner said that her favorite driver is the Wilson Laminate. According to Carner, it helped her pinpoint where the golf ball would land during her games. In the same interview, she expressed a bit of sadness that her driver was never the same after it got broken at one point.
A Quick Tangent
While the Wilson Laminate is phased out and no longer available at most golf equipment stores, there are still other great drivers out there that will help you optimize your distance and play like JoAnne Carner. Some of them are listed below, in case you’re interested. Take note that these clubs are suited for women, since we’re talking about one of the best female golfers of all time.
TaylorMade Women’s R15 Driver
The TaylorMade Women’s R15 Driver is a successor to the SLDR, and it’s better in more ways than one. For example, the R15 is equipped with the Front Track System, which helps reduce the spin it produces, as well as increase the size of the sweet spot. It also comes with two adjustable weights (the SLDR only has one), positioned at the toe and heel for easier tee shots and maximum distance, draw, and stability.
Callaway Golf 2018 Women’s Rogue Driver
In a similar vein, the Callaway Golf 2018 Women’s Rogue Driver helps satisfy your need for ball speed, as well as minimize the less-than-positive effects of sliced shots. Like many of the other fantastic drivers in Callaway’s catalog, it employs Jailbreak Technology to improve ball speed, a Triaxial Carbon Crown to increase MOI and forgiveness, and Speed Step technology to enhance your swing speeds. Combined, these features will help you launch your balls at greater distances.
Cobra Women’s 2018 F-Max Offset Driver
As Cobra’s most forgiving golf club (according to them at least), the F-Max Offset Driver is great for older women golfers. It’s also suitable for younger players with moderate swing speeds, as well as for anyone struggling with slices. This is largely thanks to the club’s lightweight shafts and swing weights. And equipped with a bigger, standard men’s size grip (made from a special rubber compound), it’s relatively comfortable to handle and swing.
Pinemeadow Golf PGX Offset Driver
With its offset, draw-biased, anti-slice setup, the Pinemeadow Golf PGX Offset Driver can be quite an appealing choice for female golfers who want to produce more distance. The club’s offset features help tremendously in squaring the golf ball at impact, resulting in straighter drives. With a head size of 460cc, it also provides players with a large sweet spot, thus granting you maximum forgiveness. To top it off, its matte black finish and white and green accents give the PGX Offset Driver a clean and sleek look.
Her USGA Achievements Mirrored Tiger Woods’
JoAnne Carner is one of the five professional golfers who have won three different USGA individual events during their careers, alongside Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Carol Semple Thompson, and Tiger Woods. As the first player to do so, she earned titles in the US Girls’ Junior, the US Women’s Amateur, and the US Women’s Open.
But among the golfers who won three different USGA individual events, only Tiger Woods managed to pull off the same feat as JoAnne Carner. That is, Woods had titles in the US Junior Amateur, the US Amateur, and the US Open. Yes, Palmer, Nicklaus, and Thompson also won three USGA titles. But those victories are from different events.
She’s the Fifth Golfer to Shoot Her Age
At 82, you would have thought JoAnne Carner retired already. But it seems even her age couldn’t stop her from pursuing her passion. During the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut, she wowed everyone by shooting her age in the first round. Not content with that, she did it again during the second round by scoring 79.
JoAnne Carner is the fifth golfer ever to shoot their age multiple times. “It was really fun,” Carner said following the round. “I mean, I started too late to— normally you come in here you’re all ready.
“But, you know, I was still hunting and pecking for some way to get it around there. Just, you know, I would hit a really good shot and then two holes later I would drop-kick it. You know, so it was just very erratic for me.”
While JoAnne Carner didn’t make the cut this time, she definitely set a new record that day. And that’s not even mentioning that she became the oldest golfer ever to play in a USGA championship that day.
She and Her Husband Traveled With an Airstream Trailer
To a large degree, JoAnne Carner’s remarkable golfing career is largely due to the stability of her homelife. In 1963, she married Don Carner, who became her coach and business manager. Being a career woman and a wife is quite a difficult and delicate role to play, and many marriages have been left in shambles due to it. However, JoAnne and Don somehow managed to make it work. They were married for 36 years until he died in 1999 at 83 years old.
One of the fondest memories fans and friends have about the couple is the fact that they live and travel around in a 31-foot Airstream trailer. This allowed them to maintain a stable home while driving from tournament to tournament.
Play Golf Like JoAnne Carner
JoAnne Carner will go down in history as one of the best female golfers of all time. When asked how she managed to keep playing record-setting golf despite her age, she gave three bits of advice. Keep it simple, beware of your flaws, and protect your body.
If you want to play like her, then you would do well to heed her words. And while you’re at it, get to know her better by reading the facts above.