Like the other 127 competitors in the 7th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship that started on Wednesday at the Grand Reserve Golf Club, Camry Tardy is excited about playing the first USGA championship in Puerto Rico. The 29-year-old from Arlington, Texas, just hopes this trip to a Caribbean paradise has a much happier ending than her last one.
None of Tardy’s fellow Four-Ball competitors have endured what she’s been through over the past 14 months. In fact, it’s remarkable she’s even teeing it up.
“My [golf] instructor reminded me,” said Tardy, who is partnering with Rachel Smith. “It took me a second for it to register.”
Last February, Tardy and Kyle Fraser, one of her best friends and her 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball partner, decided to make a weekend getaway to Turks and Caicos, an archipelago that’s about 400 miles northwest of Puerto Rico. The pair had just tied for 12th in the Women’s International Four-Ball in Wellington, Fla. One day after arriving on one of the remote islands, they hopped into a 15-foot sailboat.
The weather was perfect, but 10 minutes into their sojourn, the breeze picked up. The small vessel capsized, sending both inhabitants airborne. Fraser landed safely in the water, but Tardy – her right knee to be specific – hit squarely on the mast. Almost immediately after impact, she knew her situation wasn’t good.
“I could see my patella [kneecap] completely out to the right,” she said. “[Fortunately], it was just the tendon. If I would have hit my head, it would have been pretty tragic.”
The patellar tendon helps enable a person to bend and straighten their knee.
“Kyle asked if I was OK, and I said, ‘No, I am not,’” recalled Tardy. “I was in survival mode. [At that point], the athlete in me just kicks in.
From the nearby shore, Fraser’s father witnessed everything and assisted in the rescue process. Although they could see the shore, it was too far to swim. Eventually, Tardy was lifted onto a board, then to a golf cart and driven to a waiting aircraft. Since the remote location had no on-site medical facility, Tardy required a private plane for the 20-minute flight to the country’s main island. Even then, they had to wait another 20 minutes for an ambulance.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented Fraser and her mother from staying with Tardy at the hospital. And a freak ice storm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area canceled hundreds of flights, forcing Tardy to stay in the Caribbean for an additional five days. Normally, an extra few days in the tropics is welcome; just not when you’re immobilized in a wheelchair.
The next few months were chaotic, between twice-a-week physical-therapy sessions to trying to maintain a fledgling graphics design company. After many discussions with medical personnel, Tardy opted for therapy over surgery.
“I had to move home with my parents because I couldn’t drive a car,” said Tardy. “Bending my knee was one of my biggest challenges. I spent months trying to get it back to normal.”
Competing with Fraser in the 6th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas – the two had qualified the previous fall – was out. Tardy showed up on-site to support Fraser, who battled hard but missed the cut as a solo competitor.
By July, after months of physical therapy, Tardy had recovered enough to play golf. She competed in the sixth flight of the 100th Women’s Texas Amateur in Fort Worth, losing a 19-hole, first-round match.
The 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball qualifier on Oct. 20 at The Clubs of Prestonwood’s Creek Course would be only Tardy’s second competitive round since the setback, and there was another wrinkle. Fraser informed Tardy that she was thinking about trying professional golf, so Tardy looked elsewhere for a partner. She knew Rachel Smith from the Ladies Amateur Golf Association, a Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex league. The 34-year-old left-hander from Bedford, Texas, two-time All-Big South performer at Winthrop University, held the position of web content specialist for Dallas-based Topgolf.
Smith is Tardy’s third Four-Ball partner, following ex-Texas Christian University teammate Kortnie Maxoutopoulis (they qualified in 2017 and 2018) and Fraser.
“She is an excellent putter and one of the most accurate players I’ve seen from the fairway,” said Smith, who is competing in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball after six U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, one U.S. Girls’ Junior (2015) and two USGA State Teams (Texas). “As a very wise friend told me a couple of years ago, ‘You want to succeed in a Four-Ball? Play your own ball.’ It doesn’t matter whether you have a teammate or not, at the end of the day you are still responsible for playing your own ball in as few strokes as possible.”
Despite little prep as a team and Tardy’s lack of competitive reps, the duo carded a 68 to finish second and garner one of the three available spots. Fraser, who is still planning to turn professional later this year, caddied for Tardy at the qualifier, and the two will pair up in the Shady Oaks Member-Guest in early May.
Yes, that Shady Oaks, where one Ben Hogan shaped his game as a professional. It’s also where Tardy forged a post-college career path. She played a number of sports in high school but gravitated to golf full-time after suffering a knee injury – the same right knee she hurt in the Caribbean – while playing basketball. She then walked on at TCU, where she qualified for three tournaments in four years on the team.
The fall semester after her eligibility expired, she asked Mike Wright, the director of golf at Shady Oaks, for a job in the bag room. That led to a meeting with the Ben Hogan Foundation and a career in graphic arts.
Tardy helped redesign the foundation’s website, leading to work with other clients, including The First Tee of Fort Worth. She has since started her own graphics company and she has a vision of incorporating graphic and interior design. She recently designed the interior of the new First Tee Learning Center in Fort Worth.
Launching her business has limited Tardy’s ability to practice, and she and Smith have not played a single round together ahead of Puerto Rico.
At least Tardy is able to walk 18 holes, although the ultimate test will come when she has to do it over consecutive days.
The payoff for all her efforts is another chance to compete in a USGA championship. Tardy is treating the event as a vacation. Her parents are joining her; they will hang out, enjoy the tropical weather and hopefully see some high-level golf.
Just don’t expect any excursions involving boats.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.