Many professional athletes nearing the end of their career have a hard time calling it quits. Many athletes who finally call it quits make a beeline for the golf course to occupy some of their free time.
Neither scenario depicts Tracy Hanson’s exit from the LPGA Tour. It was essentially the opposite.
Her game was in decent shape, but her body ached. Her passion for golf and the requirements – hours of practice and endless travel – necessary to compete at the highest level were slipping.
When the former Lakeland High standout teed it up for the last time in 2009, ending a 16-year career with 16 top-10s and career earnings of nearly $1.6 million, she knew it was time to leave on her terms.
“The strange thing was my game was probably in a better spot than it had ever been,” Hanson said in a phone interview from Michigan. “I wasn’t posting the scores I thought I should be so there was some frustration of really working hard and not getting the results.
“But I was reaching the point where I was losing the joy and my body was getting beat up. I didn’t want to force myself to be out there.”
Hanson walked away with a plan that included time to allow her body to heal, working part time and possibly delving into website design. She soon changed lanes.
“About a year after I retired I felt like I kind of needed to go into some of my childhood story and pick apart my pro career,” said Hanson, who returned to North Idaho last weekend as a member of the first class inducted into Lakeland’s Athletic Hall of Fame. “I did some counseling to figure out who I was away from golf.
“It’s been a challenging journey. As I’ve gotten to know myself again I started feeling a passion for walking into other people’s stories.”
Hanson for years has worked part time for Neurocore, a Michigan-based company that helps people understand how the brain works and expand their potential. During her LPGA career, Hanson worked with Neurocore to help improve her game.
Neurocore has been flexible in allowing Hanson to pursue other interests, primarily helping others.
“I do some lay counseling and I think I want to work back into the Christian ministry in the sports world,” Hanson said. “I’m going through the lay counseling certificate program and for me it’s just giving me the tools. From pro to college, athletes are athletes so we all have our story to enter in to. It’s all still in process as to what it will look like as far as a vocation.”
Hanson played very little golf the first few years after she retired. This year she’s been on the course more, playing with friends, at charity tournaments and instructing at clinics. She shot an even-par round recently and was fitted for a set of Henry-Griffitts clubs when she returned to the area last week.
She has her eye on the Legends Tour, the LPGA’s version of the Champions Tour, but probably not as a full-time member. She’ll be eligible in three years but there’s talk of changing the minimum age from 45 to 47. Rosie Jones won last week’s event and $25,000 in a field that included Hall of Famers Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner and Patty Sheehan.
“But I don’t want to play every day,” Hanson said. “It’s more how I can use the gift God has given me for a greater good.”
Hanson has been inducted into four halls of fame – Lakeland High, San Jose State University, Idaho Athletic and the National Golf Coaches Association. In addition to being a state champion in golf, Hanson helped Lakeland win a state basketball championship. Heather (Hosheit) Wilson, one of Hanson’s basketball teammates, joined Hanson in Lakeland’s inaugural class.
Hanson jokes that “I don’t work full time and you would think I have a lot of free time but for some reason I don’t.” She travels quite a bit, occasionally serves as a substitute teacher and she’s working toward her lay counseling program certificate.
“I never lack for something to do,” she said. “I don’t think our journey of self-discovery ever ends. People are always growing and changing. I know my heart is in a really good place (compared to) three years ago, but is my journey over? Absolutely not, but it’s been a very good thing for me.
“I feel more alive than I ever have.”