We lost former LPGA Tour player Heather Farr to breast cancer in 1993. She was 28, which means she’s been gone more years now than she was with us. For those who knew her, the impression Heather made still sticks – a 5’1” firebrand with a shock of thick, black hair, an impossibly genuine laugh, boundless grit and the dichotomy of a sweet disposition and irascible determination. But you could not forget that smile, broad and natural, with cheekbones so high they bent sunlight.
As time passes, certain moments hit you. When Liz Nagel made her impassioned acceptance speech after winning the Heather Farr Perseverance Award at the Rolex LPGA Awards in November – “Our struggles do not define us, but they do prove how strong we are” – it dawned on me that none of the recent recipients ever met Heather. She is a name and an art-directed face on bas-relief. There are ideals outlined in the award description – hard work, determination, fighting spirit – all traits Heather displayed in full. But they aren’t the whole person. She was so much more.
It is up to those of us who knew her to keep the rest alive.
“I never met (Heather) but I know a lot of people who knew her,” said 2017 Heather Farr Perseverance Award recipient Tiffany Joh, now the assistant women’s golf coach at the University of Southern California. “I know her sister, Missy Farr, who is coaching at Arizona State University now. I know Missy really well. And even though I didn’t know Heather I feel like I did. I know how beloved she was.
“The things that people who knew her say about her are the things you hope that people will say about you. Her attitude, her positivity, her outlook on life, how fiercely competitive she was: she’s the kind of person who, character wise, you aspire to be.”
She was all of that and more. As a kid, Heather had a maturity and a mindset that set her apart. Perhaps it was where she grew up, the desert of Arizona when towns like Scottsdale and Tempe were whistle-stops on dusty train lines. Her father, Jerry, was an Air Force veteran and rodeo cowboy, so terms like “rough stock,” “rank bull” and “buckin’ bronco” were as much a part of her vocabulary as “birdie putt” and “backspin.”