Joan Teats, a member of the PNGA Hall of Fame and considered the “Mother of Washington Junior Golf,” passed away peacefully on June 1 of breast cancer, surrounded by her close family. She was 87.
Teats co-founded the Washington Junior Golf Association (WJGA) in 1977. She would later become a director in the PNGA, and a member of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Committee. In 1988, she founded the Girls’ Junior America’s Cup team matches. Then, in 1995, she was inducted into the PNGA Hall of Fame for distinguished achievement in amateur golf competition and outstanding contributions in amateur golf in the Pacific Northwest.
“Joan Teats had a very positive impact on many young lives in the Pacific Northwest,” said Troy Andrew, executive director of the PNGA and WSGA. “Her enthusiasm, love for junior golf, and uplifting spirit will be missed by many, especially within the Washington Junior Golf Association and golfing community. I have many fond memories as a young boy playing in WJGA events. She set the groundwork for junior golf in the state of Washington; she dedicated herself to the WJGA for over 30 years. She embodied the true spirit of junior golf and surrounded herself with many great people who will carry on her legacy.”
Said Jerry Fehr, longtime executive director of the WJGA, “Joan had that rare determination and courage required to obtain the help she needed to get WJGA started – both in the form of volunteers to help her do the job and financial support to make it all possible. She saw the need and made it all happen.”
Joan grew up in Baker City, in eastern Oregon, and started playing golf at the age of 12. She graduated in 1946 from Whitman College (in Walla Walla, Wash.) with a major in music and went to her first job teaching music in public schools in Klamath Falls, Ore. The following year she was promoted to the supervisor of music in the Lewiston, Idaho school district.
In 1947, she married Dick Curtiss, a student from Whitman who had also majored in music. They spent their free time playing golf at the Lewiston Country Club. Bill Welch, who had won the 1941 U.S. Amateur Public Links (held that year at Indian Canyon GC in Spokane) and who was now working as the professional at Lewiston, encouraged Joan and her game improved to a handicap of 4. She won the Lewiston Women’s Championship, and later on the Idaho Women’s Amateur Championship in 1949.
Joan and Dick moved to Pomeroy, Wash. where Dick had his first job teaching music. While living in Pomeroy, they started raising a family, with the arrival of daughters Chris and Kathy, and later, daughter Patty was born after the family moved to Tacoma, Wash.
In Tacoma, Joan taught classroom music in the Bethel school district, then moved into a new field – television music. Produced by the Clover Park school district, channel 56 was a closed-circuit TV where she worked for seven years. It was during this time Joan lost her husband following open-heart surgery.
As a widow, Joan was invited to join Fircrest (Wash.) Golf Club and play golf again. In 1967, Joan met Merrill Teats, a 7-handicapper, and they married in June of 1967.
Since having retired from teaching, she found she missed being around young people, so Joan became chairman of the Junior program at Fircrest. All three of her daughters played junior golf at Fircrest, with the youngest, Patty, becoming a serious competitor, being awarded a golf scholarship at the University of New Mexico.
Joan co-founded the Washington Junior Golf Association in 1977 with the support of Merrill and their family, which now had grown to include two step-children, Mac and Marsha. In 1977, the Teats home became the first WJGA office. Two bedrooms and the recreation room were filled with supplies and people devoting many hours to the WJGA. Later, daughter Chris would join the WJGA staff and become an integral part of the WJGA team developing the publicity, fundraising, and computer aspects of junior golf administration.
Family and friends are invited to sign the online guest book at www.sherman-knapp.com, the funeral home that handled the arrangements.
The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers or cards, a donation be made to the WJGA (6314 19th St. W, #14, Fircrest, WA 98466. Phone: 253-564-0348).