By Neal Reid
As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." For Leta Lindley, that means a nearly 20-year career on the LPGA Tour.
Lindley will make 2012, her 18th season as a Tour member, her last.
The mother of two and husband Matt Plagmann - her caddie of 17 years - are in the process of transitioning into life after golf, and the Arizona veteran is at peace with her decision.
"I think it's definitely time," said Lindley, who joined the LPGA Tour in 1995. "My kids need me at home, this will be my 18th year on Tour, and I feel like it's time. I feel good about the decision.
"It's a little bittersweet, because I've spent so much of my life playing competitive golf. So, I think it will be a little odd to not be preparing for the 2013 season. No one said I was going to play forever, and I never expected to be JoAnne Carner, who was 60 when she was still playing."
Lindley has enjoyed a consistent and successful career, earning nearly $3 million, winning the 2008 LPGA Corning Classic and notching 33 top-10 finishes coming into 2012. Three of her top-10s came in majors, including the 1997 LPGA Championship - where she lost to Chris Johnson on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
It has been a career the affable Lindley has relished since Day One.
"I've had a great career, and I'm very proud of what I've accomplished on the golf course," Lindley said. "My legacy is going to be my family and my children, and that's where I need to put my focus now. I'm happy that I'm calling it on my own terms versus being forced out because I wasn't able to keep my status."
The win in Corning stands out among Lindley's fondest memories from her career.
"Winning in Corning - with Matt caddying for me, my children there on the 18th green and winning in a playoff with a birdie - I couldn't have scripted it any better," she said. "Certainly, that's the highlight of my career, and I'll never forget it."
The luxury of having her husband as her longtime caddie is also a special aspect of Lindley's Tour experience.
"I never would have lasted 18 years if he hadn't been on my bag and supporting me the way he has," said Lindley, winner of the 2008 Heather Farr Player Award. "He basically gave up any career of his own to support me, walk beside me and go through this together. (Playing on Tour) can be very lonely, and to have your best friend and biggest fan right there beside you, cheering you on made all the difference.
"I don't know that I would have had the career I did if it wasn't for Matt."
She joined the LPGA Tour after an illustrious collegiate career that garnered her induction into the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) Players Hall of Fame in 2006. Lindley was a four-time All-American and a three-time Academic All-American at the University of Arizona.
Nearly 20 years later, Lindley is a mother who is looking to spend more time with her 8-year-old son Cole, and 5-year-old daughter, Reese.
"I feel that it's time to say goodbye," said Lindley, who plans to play 15 to 20 events this season. "To be competitive - which is what I want to do - it's either all or nothing. You've got to give everything you've got to that, and it's just getting harder and harder with the kids to try to divide my time.
"I want to give everything to the kids, and I want to give everything to my golf, and I can't do that. It's getting harder and harder to stay competitive, and something has to give."
So, next year, she will be more focused on packing lunches than her suitcase, more inclined to use a clothing iron than a 9-iron. And that's just the way she wants it.
"At the end of the day, my family is more important to me than my golf," Lindley said.
Matt will use 2012 as his transition year, staying home with the kids while working on his future profession, while Lindley makes her curtain call on Tour. She said that he will definitely be on the bag for her at her final tournament, whatever that turns out to be.
Her golf career has been a fulfilling and thrilling time for Lindley.
"I have a lot of good memories I'm going to take away from my years," she said. "I don't know that I ever dreamed it would be an 18-year career. It has gone by in the snap of a finger. I think that's part of the reason why it's time to say goodbye.
"Before I know it, Cole's going to be going off to college, and I don't want to miss those years with him and with Reese. These are important years, and I want to be there for them."
Lindley may not believe she's lasted 18 years on Tour, but when it comes to her career, she was prophetic in a prediction she made decades ago.
"Way before I got my Tour card, I told my mom I was going to play until I was 40, and I was going to retire and raise my family," Lindley said. "And here I am. I'm going to turn 40 in June, and I'm going to retire and raise my family. I'm right on schedule, and I didn't even realize that I really meant it."
Beginning next year, more of Lindley's time will be spent working on the Leta Lindley Prader-Willi Classic, a charity tournament that supports the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association. Prader-Willi Syndrome - a congenital birth disease that results in children being obese and having reduced muscle tone and mental ability, among other afflictions - is a cause Lindley has been involved with since 2009, and she looks forward to committing more time to that initiative.
"I'm going to take on more responsibility," Lindley said about the charity. "We're making great strides. We're hoping that, with the funds we raise, there will be more research and they can find something that will make a difference for these kids.
"It's been an amazing opportunity to make a difference by using golf. I feel blessed on so many levels for what golf has brought to my life."