Peggy Conley: Not your typical cashier

September 3, 2009

By Tim Pfarr

By Tim Pfarr
Customers at Newcastle Fruit and Produce may not realize it, but the smiling woman behind the cash register used to be a professional athlete. Her name is Peggy Conley, and for 15 years she traveled the world doing what she loved: golfing.
Conley was born in Seattle, but moved to Spokane with her family when she was 5. When she was 11, she joined her father on a trip to the Indian Canyon Golf Course, and her father let her hit a ball.
“I was instantly hooked,” she said.
For the next several years, Conley spent her summers hanging around the golf course, and she eventually began playing competitively, traveling the country and winning tournaments. She attended the University of Washington and played on the golf team, where she became the first female in the school’s history to receive an athletic scholarship: one payment of $500.
Conley graduated in 1972 with a degree in ceramic sculpting and became a teacher at Overlake School in Redmond. Golf took a back seat in her life from 1972-1975, as she was busy with teaching.
She said she enjoyed teaching and loved the children she worked with, but she eventually compared how much she earned to how much professional golfers earned.
“I was making $7,000 a year, and they were making that in one week,” she said.
So, Conley began golfing again, and saving money. In 1976, she quit her job with $2,500 in her pocket and returned to Spokane to sharpen her skills.
One month later, she attended the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour’s qualifying event — what golfers refer to as “Q School.”
Although Conley described the experience of qualifying as “absolute hell,” she made the cut and earned her LPGA tour card. She had become a professional golfer.
The competition was stiff on the LPGA tour, and Conley remembers playing horribly in her first event. The pressure was high, since she needed to play well to make it through the preliminary round of each event.
“If you don’t play well for two days, you’re essentially fired for the week,” she said.
However, she worked her way to the top of the pack, finishing second behind Nancy Lopez at the Sunstar Classic in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.
But things would take a turn in 1980, when Conley developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause numbness, tingling and pain in your wrist, and was forced to undergo reconstructive surgery. She returned to professional golf just five months later, but she did not perform well enough, and she was stripped of her LPGA tour card.
Conley would return to Q school again, but would not make the cut.
For the next two years, she took part in mini tours — essentially the minor leagues of golf — and in May 1984, after advice from her old friend Mickey Walker, Conley crossed the Atlantic to participate in the European Tour. She only intended to stay for two months, but ended up staying nine years.
“It’s a kinder, gentler tour,” Conley said. “I went to Europe and was like, ‘This is golf.’”
Now, reflecting on her experiences in Europe, she says losing her LPGA tour card was the best thing that ever happened to her, because she was far happier in Europe despite taking a massive pay cut.
On the European tour, Conley heated up quickly, winning her second tournament: the Ulster Volkswagen Classic. In 1986, she won the Portuguese Open and placed second in the British Open.
However, while driving in Savona, Italy, in 1991, Conley came around a hairpin turn to find another car speeding toward her in the wrong lane. The vehicles collided head-on, and although Conley did not break any bones, she suffered a concussion and whiplash that would severely disrupt her golf game. The other driver — a golf journalist — suffered a broken hand.
Conley attempted to golf again on the European tour, but her injuries from the accident proved to be too much. Her career as a professional golfer was officially over.
After her injury, she spent two years riding a motorcycle across Europe before returning to the U.S. Upon her return, she began teaching golf in Arizona. In 2000, she returned to the Pacific Northwest, taking a job teaching at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish. In 2004, she came to The Golf Club at Newcastle, where she works today.
Now, Conley also works at Newcastle Fruit and Produce, ringing up customers with a smile. She said she took the job because she wanted to try something totally different than she had in the past, and so she could walk to work.
“It’s not hard to get up in the morning,” she said.
Her coworkers make working at the fruit stand a joy, she said, and the passion the owners have for the business trickles down to her.
“It’s an honor to work there,” she said.

Customers at Newcastle Fruit and Produce may not realize it, but the smiling woman behind the cash register used to be a professional athlete. Her name is Peggy Conley, and for 15 years she traveled the world doing what she loved: golfing.

Former pro golfer Peggy Conley enjoys working as a cashier at the Newcastle Fruit and Produce stand. By Tim Pfarr

Former pro golfer Peggy Conley enjoys working as a cashier at the Newcastle Fruit and Produce stand. By Tim Pfarr

Conley was born in Seattle, but moved to Spokane with her family when she was 5. When she was 11, she joined her father on a trip to the Indian Canyon Golf Course, and her father let her hit a ball.

“I was instantly hooked,” she said.

For the next several years, Conley spent her summers hanging around the golf course, and she eventually began playing competitively, traveling the country and winning tournaments. She attended the University of Washington and played on the golf team, where she became the first female in the school’s history to receive an athletic scholarship: one payment of $500.

Conley graduated in 1972 with a degree in ceramic sculpting and became a teacher at Overlake School in Redmond. Golf took a back seat in her life from 1972-1975, as she was busy with teaching.

She said she enjoyed teaching and loved the children she worked with, but she eventually compared how much she earned to how much professional golfers earned.

“I was making $7,000 a year, and they were making that in one week,” she said.

So, Conley began golfing again, and saving money. In 1976, she quit her job with $2,500 in her pocket and returned to Spokane to sharpen her skills.

One month later, she attended the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour’s qualifying event — what golfers refer to as “Q School.”

Although Conley described the experience of qualifying as “absolute hell,” she made the cut and earned her LPGA tour card. She had become a professional golfer.

The competition was stiff on the LPGA tour, and Conley remembers playing horribly in her first event. The pressure was high, since she needed to play well to make it through the preliminary round of each event.

“If you don’t play well for two days, you’re essentially fired for the week,” she said.

However, she worked her way to the top of the pack, finishing second behind Nancy Lopez at the Sunstar Classic in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.

But things would take a turn in 1980, when Conley developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause numbness, tingling and pain in your wrist, and was forced to undergo reconstructive surgery. She returned to professional golf just five months later, but she did not perform well enough, and she was stripped of her LPGA tour card.

Conley would return to Q school again, but would not make the cut.

For the next two years, she took part in mini tours — essentially the minor leagues of golf — and in May 1984, after advice from her old friend Mickey Walker, Conley crossed the Atlantic to participate in the European Tour. She only intended to stay for two months, but ended up staying nine years.

“It’s a kinder, gentler tour,” Conley said. “I went to Europe and was like, ‘This is golf.’”

Now, reflecting on her experiences in Europe, she says losing her LPGA tour card was the best thing that ever happened to her, because she was far happier in Europe despite taking a massive pay cut.

On the European tour, Conley heated up quickly, winning her second tournament: the Ulster Volkswagen Classic. In 1986, she won the Portuguese Open and placed second in the British Open.

However, while driving in Savona, Italy, in 1991, Conley came around a hairpin turn to find another car speeding toward her in the wrong lane. The vehicles collided head-on, and although Conley did not break any bones, she suffered a concussion and whiplash that would severely disrupt her golf game. The other driver — a golf journalist — suffered a broken hand.

Conley attempted to golf again on the European tour, but her injuries from the accident proved to be too much. Her career as a professional golfer was officially over.

After her injury, she spent two years riding a motorcycle across Europe before returning to the U.S. Upon her return, she began teaching golf in Arizona. In 2000, she returned to the Pacific Northwest, taking a job teaching at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish. In 2004, she came to The Golf Club at Newcastle, where she works today.

Now, Conley also works at Newcastle Fruit and Produce, ringing up customers with a smile. She said she took the job because she wanted to try something totally different than she had in the past, and so she could walk to work.

“It’s not hard to get up in the morning,” she said.

Her coworkers make working at the fruit stand a joy, she said, and the passion the owners have for the business trickles down to her.

“It’s an honor to work there,” she said.

Comments

2 Responses to “Peggy Conley: Not your typical cashier”

  1. Peggy Conley: Not your typical cashier Golf on September 3rd, 2009 1:14 pm

    [...] See original here: Peggy Conley: Not your typical cashier [...]

  2. Katy Philp on September 6th, 2009 3:05 am

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article about Peggy. I was one of her former students at Overlake and often wonder where she is. Great article. Thanks for sharing. I happen to be staying very close to Newcastle this weekend so may just have to look her up. Serendipitous!

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