Kitty takes full swing at veterans' golf circuit
Former local LPGA pro finds fun, money on Legends Tour links
Back in the 1980s, when she was representing Portland as a regular on the LPGA circuit, she was Kathy Young. These days, she is known as 'Kitty' or Kathryn Young-Robyn. At 51, her golf game - and sense of humor - remains intact.
This weekend, in the B.J. Charity Championship at Granite Links in Quincy, Mass., Young-Robyn partners with another ex-LPGA pro, Muffin Spencer-Devlin, in a team event on the Legends Tour - the women's version of the Champions Tour.
Last year, Young-Robyn - whose best finish in a 13-year LPGA career (1979-91) was a tie for second - won the Hy-Vee Classic at Johnston, Iowa, emerging from a field of 50 players age 45 and older as champion.
'It was a dream come true,' says Young-Robyn, a former three-sport star at Reynolds High who played golf at the University of Oregon. 'It had been 18 years since my mom had seen me play in a pro tournament, and she was there. My husband caddied for me. It couldn't have been a better picture in a storybook.'
This will be the 10th Legends event for Young-Robyn, who has three top-10 finishes and has earned $121,731. It's a new lease on a career for the 5-10 woman with the long, fluid swing that observers admired during her LPGA days.
Young-Robyn's best years were 1984 (51st on the money list with $42,959) and 1988 (55th with $56,935 in earnings), but the pressures of the circuit caused her to retire from it at age 36.
'I was tired of hanging out at the wailing wall, trying to see if I made a cut,' she says. 'I lost my desire to practice and to work on it. I knew I needed to take it up a notch, because the girls coming up were getting a lot better. I was ready for a lifestyle change.'
She spent a year selling real estate - 'I sold one home … I was a fish out of water in that field,' she says - before securing a job in the pro shop of a club in Coronado, Calif., in 1992. She has been teaching golf there since. During that time, she changed her name to Kitty.
'I have an Aunt Kitty, and I was working a lot with junior players,' Young-Robyn says. 'I thought it was a more kid-friendly name. I keep changing my name to protect the guilty.'
Men qualify for the Champions Tour at age 50. The Legends Tour - more limited in its number of events and less advanced than its male counterpart - starts at age 45. 'No self-respecting woman is going to admit she's 50,' jokes Young-Robyn, who played her first Legends event at 46.
'After I heard about it, I started practicing to get my game in shape,' she says.
Young-Robyn played some minitour events, winning the New Mexico Women's as she prepared for the Legends Tour. The Hy-Vee title opened some doors. This year she was invited to a pair of Orient Masters tournaments in China, finishing 13th and 27th.
'Not to say I wasn't enjoying my life, but it's better than it ever has been,' says Young-Robyn, who married Dick Robyn, a retired judge, in 1996. 'I have a nice combination of activities. The topper is my husband. I have five stepchildren and 13 grandkids. It's instant family.'
Young-Robyn is pushing for a Legends event in Oregon.
'I can't think of a better place to play golf than in Portland,' she says. 'My fondest memories are playing some of the Pacific Northwest courses.'