by Tom Cade, Editor
Dana Bates was born and raised in Tacoma, Wash. As a child, she played in her first junior golf event at Meadow Park Golf Course. When she grew up, she went off into the world and had many adventures. Then, a year ago, at age 58, she returned to Tacoma, moved into the house she grew up in, sleeps in the bedroom she did as a child, and gives golf lessons at Meadow Park.
It is full circle for her. “And I couldn’t be happier,” she says, with her trademark room-filling, heart-uplifting laugh.
And what were those adventures she had in the world? Let’s have a look.
She attended the University of Hawaii on a golf scholarship, where she was mentored by the great Jackie Pung (past U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, and five-time winner on the LPGA Tour). She then transferred to the University of Arizona, with one of her women’s golf teammates being future PNGA Hall of Famer Lara Tennant.
What did she do for summer jobs during her college years? “I caddied on the PGA Senior Tour,” she says.
While playing in a pro-am event at Fircrest (Wash.) Golf Club in 1984, she was paired with tour player Art Wall. “After the round he asked me if I wanted to come along and caddie for him for the summer,” Bates explained. “I said sure. And it was a great experience.”
Over the next three summers, she also caddied for others on the senior circuit, such as Jerry Barber. “To be able to be inside the ropes with these great players is something that has really stayed with me,” she says. “At that level, they were really craftsmen.”
After college, Bates turned professional in 1987. She competed on the Futures Tour, played in three LPGA Championships, and in 2008 was a contestant on Golf Channel’s “Big Break Kaanapali.”
Bates also devoted herself to becoming a golf instructor, teaching clinics all over the country, and alongside such legendary instructors as Jim Flick and Hank Haney. In 2002, she was featured on the cover of Golf for Women magazine as a Top-50 instructor.
She is a Lifetime Member of the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals, being a Class A Member for more than 25 years.
Then, at age 53, she felt she’d had enough of the golf world, feeling that after more than 35 years she needed a break. So what did she do next?
“I got a job as a horse wrangler,” she says, again with her customary laugh.
For the next four years, she worked on a 160-acre ranch in southern Nevada, herding cattle, riding horses, playing polo.
“It was a lot of fun, and I really needed to get away from the game for a while,” she says.
But she evidently didn’t take a complete break from the game – during those four years she qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018 and again in 2019.
“That is true,” she says, laughing. “I had set up a practice area on the ranch, so whenever I got the golf itch, I’d spend an afternoon working on my game.”
Then, in late 2021, she was talking with one of her brothers, who still lives in Tacoma. They were having a late-night conversation about what to do next. “And he said to me, ‘Why don’t you come home?’”
And so she did, to the house she grew up in; to the bedroom she slept in as a child.
In January of 2022 she was hired by Meadow Park as an instructor. She gives individual lessons, conducts “Get Golf Ready” group lessons for women, mentors the club’s PGA Jr. League youth teams, and works with the new golfers of The First Tee of South Puget Sound, which is headquartered at Meadow Park.
She also still keeps her own game in shape, and qualified for the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open. For her caddie in the championship, Bates brought along Matthew DeFeo, the 29-year-old son of her former college roommate.
“I told my First Tee kids that I’ll be playing for them, that I really wanted to make them proud,” she said. “Before I left for the championship, I asked them what I should focus on, and they said, ‘Never give up!’”
On the final hole of the second round of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, Bates sank a 7-foot putt to make the cut exactly on the number.
The next morning, while warming up on the driving range before teeing off in the third round, Bates looked up to see World Golf Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy next to her, and Stacy gave her the thumbs up for still being there on the weekend.
“To get that from Hollis was pretty special,” Bates said. “I was so engrossed in just being at the event. I really had no expectations, but was grateful just to be there.”
From college golf phenom, to tour caddie, to pro golfer, to nationally-recognized instructor, to horse-wrangler and cowgirl, to polo player, to junior golf teacher, to making the cut at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
“I’m fortunate to have been able to be around the game long enough to be able to give back to it,” Bates says. “The rewards of this opportunity are tremendous.”
Fortunate is the word, for everyone.