Nothing stops veteran golfer from hitting the links

Marjo Grant has played at Redtail Golf Center (formerly Progress Downs) for 50 years, a sport she took up after playing softball for 30 years and winning a world title. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life
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Marjo Grant has always been in a league of her own.

Currently, the 86-year-old is an active member of the LadyHawks 18-hole golf group based at RedTail Golf Course in Beaverton that plays from the first Thursday in April through the last Thursday in October. Grant plays fairly regularly every Thursday despite a serious cancer diagnosis and dealing with neuropathy (weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage in her feet).

“She is an inspiration to us all,” said fellow golfer Linda Rutledge.

Grant noted that RedTail “is a very hard course,” and she should know. “I joined this golf group exactly 50 years ago, in 1973, when it was Progress Downs,” she said. “We once had more than 100 golfers in our group, but we’re now down to 45 with about 20 to 28 faithful members who play regularly.”

Sitting down to talk in Bunkers, a snack shop by RedTail’s 10th tee, Grant, who has an 18 handicap, said she is a fair-weather golfer. “In the wintertime, if it’s raining, I come in here to the snack shop, or if it’s really bad weather, I stay home,” she said. “We have a spring handicap tournament and a club championship tournament in September. I’ve been the club champion eight times. The last time was when I was 80.”

But Grant isn’t just a one-sport phenomenon.

Raised in Olympia, Wash., she started playing softball at age 10 and played through high school and college. “It was all amateur,” Grant said. “Our team in Washington was sponsored by the Olympic Cannery, and we were called the Cannerettes. They paid for our travel, and we went to the world championship in 1953, 1954, and 1955. The Erv Lind Florist’s team was the best team and went to win every year, but we beat them three years in a row.”

In 1954, when the tournament was held in Toronto, Grant earned the title of world batting champion. “I had a 500 batting average,” she said.

She moved to Portland when she was 21 to play softball. “The team here wanted me to join them, and I came for the summer,” Grant said. “The team disbanded, but I never went back to Washington. I made friends here, and decided why not stay here with them and get a job. Our team here was sponsored by the American Linen Company.”

Grant, who played softball until she was 40, never married. “I guess I was too busy playing sports,” she said. “I blame it on that.”

The transition to golf was easy. Grant was at a softball picnic, “and people said, ‘I bet you could hit a golf ball really far.’ So, I hit a golf ball, really far.”

She added, “I thought it would be fun to play golf, but I was working so I didn’t do it too often until I retired in 1999.”

Grant spent her entire career working for Coremark, a wholesale candy company that was the biggest convenience store supplier in the U.S. She started as a billing clerk, and when computers came on the scene, she trained employees how to use them, including traveling for nine years to company branches all over the West Coast and Canada. “It was a good company to work for,” Grant said.

Amazingly, she said she feels well despite dealing with cancer. Grant was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, and despite treatment it has spread to her lungs and bones, which is being treated with chemotherapy infusions. Her biggest issue is dealing with the neuropathy caused by her treatment, but she still drives and added, “I live in my own home and do everything with my walker, like cleaning and cooking. If I didn’t have neuropathy, I would be fine.”

Grant came up with her own techniques to be able to continue playing golf with neuropathy: For starters, she uses a golf cart to get as close to the ball as she can. “Then I use a golf club as a cane, and if the ground is flat, I get myself balanced and swing,” she said. “My swing is much shorter than it used to be. If I am on a hill, my friends help hold me up so I can swing. If I didn’t have my friends, I wouldn’t be able to golf.”

When Grant, who has lived in Eldorado Villas near King City for 45 years, isn’t playing golf during the spring-to-fall season, she watches college softball and professional baseball on television. “I don’t miss a game,” she said.

Playing ball in one form or another has obviously been a lifelong pastime for Grant, starting in her childhood. “My dad loved baseball,” she said. “I had three sisters, and I was my dad’s little ‘boy.’ I was a sport girl.”

And her positive attitude has kept her winning on and off the ball field and golf course. “I feel that’s what is keeping me going,” Grant said.

Yes, she is definitely in a league of her own.

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