In a league of their own - Judi Garman (BAPE'66) and Lorraine Klippel (BAPE'68)
by Lori Wiens
Judi Garman's career accomplishments would impress even the most apathetic sports fan. Coach of the Italian women's 2004 Olympic softball team. Winningest coach in US college softball. National Softball Coach Hall of Famer.
Her sister, Lorraine Klippel has an equally remarkable resume. The only two-time winner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) professional of the year. One of only 50 master professionals, the highest achievement in golf. First woman at the PGA club repair and fitting school.
Both are highly sought after motivational speakers, successful businesswomen and leaders in the women's sports world. That's an impressive record for two women whose father used to joke about their obsession with sports. "My father used to say we'd never amount to anything if we were always playing sports," says Garman from her home in California. "There was no way he could envision what has happened and really, neither could we."
The Early Days
Born in the US, the Garman family moved to Kindersley when the girls were young. Both women credit the move for giving them the opportunities to pursue their dreams. "I was always so grateful that I got to grow up in Saskatchewan. Girls in the States didn't have the same opportunities in sports that we did until recently," claims Garman. "We traveled around to all the small town tournaments and we were encouraged to participate. That just didn't happen in the States in the '50s and '60s."
Klippel agrees. "In Saskatchewan we had the same opportunities as the boys did. You had every opportunity to excel in sport if that was what your goal was." Their mother was athletic but never had the chance to excel so she was thrilled to see her girls succeed in the sports world. "My two younger brothers weren't very athletic," says Klippel. "The genes definitely ran in the female side of the family." Both she and Garman were actively involved in softball and played for the Saskatoon Imperials while attending the University of Saskatchewan. Vera Pezer (BA'62, MA'64, PhD'77), their teammate and friend, says even back then they had the skills and determination to be successful. "I knew Judi better because we were closer in age, but they were both excellent athletes. I think Lorraine was the better natural athlete but Judi had incredible mental skills to make up for it," says Pezer. "She was technically analytical and I can see how she would take that into coaching and do it very well. I knew when Judi's playing days were over, that wouldn't be the end of her involvement. She used to study the coaches and even then, you knew she would stay involved."
Garman admits she was fascinated by coaching. "I played some basketball but I spent a lot of time on the bench trying to understand the philosophies and learning about coaching."
After graduating in 1966, Garman spent some time as a teaching assistant at the U of S before moving to California to earn her masters degree at University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB). She then accepted a teaching job at Golden West College where she won four consecutive national championships. In 1980, she moved on to Cal State Fullerton where she established a softball program and spent 20 years racking up accomplishments. One of her former players says she made a big impact on all of them. "She really loves the game. She doesn't coach softball because she played it or because it's the sport that happened to stick," says Jody Roginson. "She really loves it, studies it and is its biggest fan." Garman also emphasized the love of education, taking her players to museums, factories and on other cultural expeditions whenever possible. "She believed it was important for college students to get out and see things, to experience, to learn," claims Roginson.
Besides coaching, Garman has hosted clinics, produced a successful pitching video, wrote a book called "Softball Skills and Drills" and continues to be a popular speaker throughout the United States and Europe. Although she officially retired two years ago, she has been coaxed back to work by the Italian women's national softball team. "I was kind of thinking I would just sit around and golf, but it was Italy and I've always loved Italy," she says. Her goal now is not only to help the Italian team win a berth in the Olympics but to build a strong foundation for the next Olympic team from the junior players. She's looking forward to bringing the team to Saskatoon for the world softball championships this summer. "When I was young, I said there were three things I wanted in life; to coach, to live in a big city and to drive a sports car. Well, I've coached, I've lived in Los Angeles and I drove a corvette for 20 years," she laughs. "I really credit my time in Saskatchewan for helping me live my dream. That's where I got the foundation that made all this happen."
Klippel's story is not unlike her sister's. Besides softball in university, Klippel played on the volleyball, basketball, field hockey teams and competed at a national level for the track and field team. She excelled in shot put, javelin and discus and set several age records over the years. Lyle Sanderson (BAPE'63, MSc'69), currently head coach of the Huskies track and field team remembers her as a nice person and good athlete. "She was a well-organized, dedicated individual with good athletic skills," he says. "I remember walking along the seawall at Stanley Park when we were at a meet in Vancouver and thinking that she was just a really nice person." She too moved to the United States to get a teaching job, and in 1977, earned her Master of Science degree from Pennsylvania State. Around the same time, she started playing golf with the women from her field hockey team. "It was the one sport I couldn't master right away, so it became a bit of an obsession for me," she says. Two summers after she finished grad school, she quit her job to work at a golf course and began giving a few lessons on the side. She eventually became the head professional and moved on to another course before choosing to start her own driving range and golf facility, the Bumble Bee Hollow Golf Centre in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. "It's a dream. You always want your own place," she explains. "This wasn't the usual thing for a woman to do, especially then."
Klippel was a pioneer in the field. As the first woman at PGA club repair school, she developed a reputation as an expert repair and fitter and now gives seminars across the country. She also was named the LPGA's professional of the year in 1983 and 1992, making her the only two-time winner of the award. Her reputation continues to grow and Golf for Women magazine recently named her one of the five movers and shakers of the golf world and has listed her pro shop as one of the top five in the United States.
Lorraine insists that neither she nor Judi take their success for granted. ï¿½My sister and I both always say in our speeches that we're the two luckiest people in the world because we get paid to play," she says. "If we hadn't grown up in Saskatchewan I really don't think that ever would have happened."