July 9, 2007

Geddes: athlete to attorney

A 2006 law-school grad, Geddes today directs tourney business for the LPGA.

A 2006 law-school grad, Geddes today directs tourney business for the LPGA.

It isn't often peripheral happenings around a major championship obscure memories of the play--especially for the winner--but when the topic is the 1986 U.S. Women's Open, that is the case. "It was a wacky year," says Jane Geddes, who claimed the title at NCR CC in Kettering, Ohio, in a playoff with Sally Little. "I remember so little of the stuff at the golf course. I recall evacuating a restaurant and moving out of a hotel. It was bizarre."

When it came to oddities, that week in the Dayton suburbs had it all. A train derailment Tuesday afternoon caused a tanker containing white phosphorus to catch fire, creating a smoky cloud of the irritant and prompting an evacuation. The blaze was extinguished, but when it re-ignited about 24 hours later a larger evacuation was ordered. "Is a phosphorus cloud one or two clubs more?" quipped Hollis Stacy.

The championship began on schedule Thursday morning, but the first, second and third rounds were interrupted by weather delays (the worst a violent thunderstorm Saturday). When third-round play was halted, the golf cart transporting Ayako Okamoto skidded 100 feet into the woods, bruising the Japanese star. And there was a 4.2 earthquake that roused people out of bed at 4:20 a.m. Saturday.

Through it all, Geddes, a 26-year-old fourth-year LPGA golfer who didn't begin playing until she was 16, was as cool as ice. Erasing a five-shot deficit after 36 holes with 70-69 on the weekend to tie Little at one-under 287, Geddes was equally unflappable in the playoff. Three straight birdies gave Little a three-shot edge after six holes, but Geddes soon turned the tables and shot a 71 to Little's 73 to earn her first tour victory.

"I was just going about my business," said Geddes, a New York native who moved to Charleston, S.C., at 16 and took up golf under the tutelage of Derek Hardy. "I wasn't necessarily thinking about winning. I think I got in position [to win] because I hadn't put this tremendous pressure on myself. Each Open I played after that got tougher and tougher. It's like the more you want it, the more you can't have it."

Her Open win started a torrid stretch. Geddes won seven times in 12 months, including five victories--the Mazda LPGA Championship among them--in 1987, when she also was second four times. "I'm not a diary-keeping person, but I kept one that entire year," says Geddes. "I knew it was a special time. You hope it's going to last forever, but you know it's not going to."

Geddes played the tour through 2003, earning four more titles but often wondering about life after golf. After retiring, she completed a degree in criminology at South Florida then entered Stetson Law School. "It's like learning another language," the 47-year-old Geddes says of her legal education. "It teaches you a different way to think. It's very time-intensive. I look at all my law books now on the shelf, and I cannot believe I read all of them."

Upon graduation last December, Geddes took a position as senior director of tournament business affairs for the LPGA. "I use my law degree every single day," she says. "We are involved in the contracts, overseeing how they are administered and what-not. The analytical thinking, I use all the time."

Although her new career is fulfilling, Geddes says it cannot replicate being between the ropes. "Nothing takes the place of competing in a professional sport," Geddes says. "I don't think I'll ever be as nervous or have as much adrenaline as when you're on the first tee of the U.S. Open and they announce your name."