Leta Lindley stood in a long embrace with her husband/caddie Matt Plagmann on the 18th green at the Kingsmill Championship just moments after sinking the final putt of her 18-year tenure on the LPGA Tour.
The two walked hand-in-hand down the 18th fairway knowing that her last stop in her long, successful career wasn’t going to conclude with a bid to the weekend rounds, finishing with an even-par 71 and missing the cut by three strokes at the Kingsmill Resort, River Course in Williamsburg, Va.
Noticeably filled with emotions following her round, Lindley admits she wasn’t sure how she would feel this week.
“I think I've had a mix of emotions,” Lindley said. “Obviously very bittersweet, but knowing that it's the right time for me. Obviously I was very tearful coming up 18. I've been out here for 18 years and I've grown up out here and this has been my family for so long and it's been a big chunk of my life, but I know that it's time but it doesn't make it any less sad.”
The 40-year-old has enjoyed a steady career, earning more than $3 million, winning the 2008 LPGA Corning Classic and notching 33 top-10 finishes. Although she wasn’t known as the longest hitter on Tour, her courage, confidence and encouragement from her husband and two kids - Cole, 8 and Reese, 6 - helped Lindley through some of the toughest times on Tour.
“I'm most proud of the career that I've had out here,” Lindley said. “I'm the girl that was never going to do it. I would never get a college scholarship, I would never win a college tournament, I would never get my card, let alone keep it. And then to win a tournament after having two children, sometimes I feel like the little engine that could.”
Having spent 17 years together as a player/caddie duo on Tour, Lindley and Plagmann agree that it’s time to hang up the towel and begin a new adventure raising their two children.
“Ultimately, they're my legacy,” Lindley says. “They're the most important thing to me. I mean, I chase a little white ball out here and it's been a tremendous ride, but at the end of the day when my son cries when we leave and doesn't really understand and we try to explain to him that this is our job and this is how we buy food and toys and Wii games. So we try to put it in a perspective that he understands, but all they know is that we're not home.
“They still want to snuggle and they ‑‑ and I just want to enjoy that time before my son tells me I need to walk 10 steps behind him before I'm embarrassing him. They grow up so fast and I can't believe that Cole is eight and Reese is six. Before I know it, they're going to be out of the house and I just don't want to miss any more of that. So it's time to create some different memories.”
Plagmann became Lindley’s caddie after meeting at the University of Arizona, where she was a four-time All-American, three-time Academic All-American and finished third at the 1993 NCAA Championship. After four years of dating, the two were married at the end of Lindley’s rookie season and Plagmann stepped in as her caddie shortly after. She says the luxury of having her husband as her caddie was a special aspect of her Tour experience.
“I never would have made it out here for 18 years without him by my side. Not only is he an amazing caddie, but a wonderful husband, a cheerleader, psychologist, golf coach. He's been everything to me and my victories have been his victories as well. It's been so special that we could do it together. Not many husband‑wife teams can work together and have the kind of relationship that we do and I'm most thankful for him. I felt like he brought the best out in me because he believed in me sometimes more than I believed in myself.”
Lindley has been a mainstay on tour, a role model for younger players and a goodwill ambassador for the game. Her genial smile and pleasant demeanor on the course will certainly be missed among the LPGA Tour players.