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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Golfing matriarch re-connects with LPGA legend

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Considering that her June 30 stop at the Cherokee Village South Golf Course marked former LPGA and current Legends Tour player Jan Stephenson's first time in Sharp County, the odds were highly unlikely that she knew any of those in attendance at a meet-and-greet in her honor.

Highly unlikely, maybe, but yet there was at least one familiar face in the crowd -- Cherokee Village resident Sophie Traver.

Before retiring to Arkansas some 27 years ago, Traver and her late husband Clinton, then living in New York, had a chance to get up close and personal with Stephenson, who at the time had been a member of the LPGA for just four years.

"At the time, this was probably 1978 or so, we belonged to a private country club (Columbia Country Club) in New York," Traver said. "At that time the girls (LPGA) were just starting to get going and get real popular, and our club pro asked the members if they would help with the lodging of the girls. So we did. And then I was assigned to follow Jan Stephenson and her group when they played the tournament."

And though a lot of time had passed between her first visit with Stephenson in 1978 and her latest one at the South Course a week ago, Traver still has fond memories of helping the LPGA player at Columbia Country Club.

"I met her (Stephenson) at the club the other day and we had a nice little visit," she said. "And I remember when the different members of our club lodged the girls, how they fussed over the food -- they were on diets -- but it was delightful to have them staying in our homes. I enjoyed that very much."

Much like all things in the world of sports, the difference between watching the LPGA on television and witnessing them hit balls in person can be staggering.

"I was one of the scorers and got to follow her (Stephenson's) group, so I had an up-close view of them," Traver said. "And to see them on TV really doesn't do them justice. They're just such impressive golfers."

And impressive golfers might also be a great way to describe the Traver family on the links.

"My late husband was the former senior champion of the state of Arkansas and he won the club championship for about six or seven decades, so he was a very good golfer," Traver said. "He was also a Pearl Harbor survivor. As a matter of fact, when he was in the service, he was due to play golf the week before Pearl Harbor with Admiral Kimmel. But he'd played golf since he was about eight years old, or so. He just loved the game and did a lot of coaching of golf throughout the years."

And her husband's sweet swing also made it's way to Traver's daughter.

"My daughter Tani played in the 18-Hole Golf Championship here in Cherokee Village, and her and Barbara Hawbaker came in first with a 7-under," she said. "So, needless to say, her father would be very proud of her. She's an excellent golfer. She lives in Texas and was just here for two weeks. But she played in four tournaments, winning the one here and coming in second in Mountain Home. And then she finished first in one in Pocahontas."

Active on both courses in Cherokee Village for close to three decades now, this year marks the first time that Sophie Traver has been kept off the greens, due to injury.

"This is the first year I'm not able to play golf. I'll be 87 in October," she said. "I've got a tear in my left shoulder and the cartilage is all gone. So I've got two golf carts, and can't play right now. But we all loved the game of golf. My husband had six holes-in-one and I have three. So as you can see, we've been a golfing family."

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