Joan Damon was among the first women in Hawaii to play golf and, even in this age of prodigies, will always be remembered as one of the best.
Damon died Saturday in a Monterey, Calif., hospital. She was 86 and lived in nearby Pebble Beach the last 30-plus years of her life, her "golden-year interests" involving the arts and raising prized Whippets. Her dogs won Best of Breed at the Westminster Dog Show three times.
She gained notoriety here for her prodigious golf game, winning 23 major titles with remarkable focus and a gift for going long.
|"Everybody was in-
timidated by her
because she was such
a good golfer. But
she was really nice."
|Fellow Hall of Famer,
on Joan Damon, pictured
She was the second woman inducted into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame (after Jackie Pung), in 1989.
Damon is the only golfer to win the Jennie K. — the state’s most cherished women’s title — six times, including four in a row from 1961 to ’64. Damon also captured five straight women’s stroke-play titles.
Her tall stature and huge game were imposing, but Damon was also extremely kind. It was a fascinating contrast.
"Everybody was intimidated by her because she was such a good golfer," recalls Bev Kim, another Hall of Famer. "But she was really nice. She was like a mother to me."
Kim was in high school when she met Damon, who was the 1958 Japan Amateur champion and still winning titles in her late 40s. Both took lessons from the legendary Guinea Kop and became good friends despite being a generation apart.
Kim says Damon’s passion for dogs came after she moved from Hawaii, a move she made because of allergies.
"When she was here," Kim recalls, "she was all golf."
When Damon gave her a rolling pin at her wedding shower, Kim had to smile. Neither cooked much at the time.
Damon was born in 1924 in Kelowna, British Columbia. She moved here in 1939 because of her stepfather’s Navy career. She was a senior at Roosevelt when Pearl Harbor was bombed and went to work for the Signal Corps at Hickam.
In 1946, she married Sam R. Damon, a descendent of Samuel Mills Damon and the Damon Estate, once Hawaii’s fourth-largest private landowner. They had two daughters, Sharon and Madeleine. Sam Damon died in 1957.
Joan’s golf career was already thriving and she volunteered for Junior League, Red Cross and Queen’s Hospital. She returned often from Pebble until a car accident in 1995.
Damon graduated from Hawaii Loa College cum laude in 1984, in communications and the arts. She was often at the annual Golf Hall of Fame inductions.
Damon’s companion the last 37 years of her life was Robert Albanese of Pebble Beach. There are no public services scheduled, here or in California.