PALM HARBOR — Beth Daniel has been playing golf since the first grade. Real competitive junior golf, which led to college golf, which led to a professional career.
She won national championships at Furman University in South Carolina. She was a national amateur champion in 1975 and '77. And she won big time in her 28-year pro career.
Daniel had 33 wins on the LPGA Tour, including a major championship in 1990. She earned $8,755,733 in and was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1999 and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2000.
Daniel, 54, retired from LPGA competition in 2007. She has no regrets about her career or her decision to leave the tour.
"I realized I wasn't able to give it 100 percent anymore,'' Daniel said. "It has to consume your life to be out on tour and be successful. It was becoming more and more evident to me that it wasn't the case anymore. I'd be home on a week off and I'd be dreading practice. I shouldn't feel that way. It was pretty easy for me to step away once I realized that.''
Daniel hasn't stepped away from golf completely. She does work for junior golfers in her adopted hometown, Delray Beach, and her hometown, Charleston, S.C. She captained the Solheim Cup team in 2009. And she is in the field for the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship, which begins today on Innisbrook's Island Course.
This is Daniel's first tournament on the Legends Tour, but it is not her first tournament in the Tampa Bay area. She is a three-time winner of the JCPenney Classic, a mixed-team event with PGA players that was played at Bardmoor in Largo and Innisbrook.
"I have lots of good feelings for this area,'' Daniel said. "That was by far my favorite tournament every year.''
One number sticks out in Daniel's career. She won only one major tournament, the 1990 LPGA Championship.
"I gave it my all, and it is what it is,'' Daniel said. "I have to live with it, but I'm fine with that. I had my opportunities, and some I won, and some I didn't. You can always look back and say I should've won this, but I didn't. I'm fine with that.
"The best part of my career — and I couldn't see it when I was playing — was the friendships I made along the way. I still have those friendships. That means more to me than the victories. The victories are nice, but the friendships are better.''
Daniel will be among friends when she tees off today with fellow LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan. Though this weekend's tournament is considered a major on the Legends Tour, which is for players 45 and older, Daniel isn't treating it like one. She said she has had little time to practice and is just hoping for the best.
"I have no idea what is going to happen,'' Daniel said. "I'm trying to keep my expectations low. I haven't even practiced that much. It could be okay, or it could be not so good. But it's fun to see everybody and have a good time.''