The Home Advantage
One remains on the courts while the other has moved from the fairway to the ringside, but together, retired sports champs Gigi Fernandez and Jane Geddes have planted roots in the area
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Growing up in Northport, Jane was a tomboy who played all the sports she could. When she was sixteen, her family uprooted and moved to South Carolina, which she felt was “fairly traumatic.”
In Charleston at that time, a local girl named Beth Daniel was getting a lot of attention for winning repeated U.S. Amateur golf championships. Jane’s mother offered to take Jane to see Beth’s teacher, Derek Hardy. Jane said no, but then dragged herself to the lesson anyway. After one lesson Derek immediately sought out Mrs. Geddes and said that if she’d just bring Jane back, he’d charge nothing. Bingo. Jane had a teacher for life. (Derek also didn’t do so badly with Beth Daniel, who went on to forty-one wins on the LPGA tour.)
After walking on to the golf team at Florida State University, Jane hit the LPGA Tour in 1983. In three years she broke through with her first win, a playoff victory in the U.S. Women’s Open. Although Open wins are supposed to be grueling, she waltzed out the next week and scored another victory. “I was just on a cloud. I won something like seven tournaments in a twelve-month period. Nothing was going wrong. I never even went to the driving range. I never even warmed up! It was just crazy. I had such a good feel and visual of my swing.” She went on to win another major and a total of fifteen wins before retiring in 2003.
At that point, she had already been dating Gigi, who retired from tennis in 1997. Both women were driven to have identities not tied up with their past athletic stature. “I wanted to be something besides ‘Jane Geddes, golfer,’” Jane says.
By her own account, the young Gigi was a raw talent when she left Puerto Rico for Clemson. She really had no one to emulate, being the first female athletic star of any kind from Puerto Rico. But in college she learned how to organize her life and how to practice. She made the NCAA Finals as a freshman, and bolted for the tennis tour.