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Way above par: Reservist is Air Force's Female Athlete of the Year.

When Capt. Linda Jeffery took home the hardware as 2006 Air Force Female Athlete of the Year, she was just doing what she does best, winning.

Since 2002, Captain Jeffery has dominated women's golf in the Air Force even more so than Tiger Woods has dominated his peers on the Professional Golf Association Tour. She won the Air Force and Armed Forces titles in 2006 by a combined 48 strokes.

Captain Jeffery, an individual mobilization augmentee assigned to the 314th Services Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., grew up playing soccer and soft-ball as a young girl in Abilene, Texas. In high school, when spring rolled around, she had a choice of track and field or golf, and track was definitely not on her agenda.

"I didn't want to run track," she said. "My aunt played golf and introduced me to the game. I think playing Softball helped me with golf. I wasn't that good my freshman year, but by my sophomore year 1 was the top player at my school."

Captain Jeffery would go on to have a decorated career in high school earning all-district honors three straight years. Her next golf stop was Hardin-Simmons University.

While on an academic scholarship, she worked on refining her golf game. Her freshman year, Hardin-Simmons won the 1994 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, golf championship.

For the three years she played golf, Captain Jeffery was the team's No. 1 player. Along the way she garnered both academic and athletic All-American honors.

"Winning the national championship was definitely a highlight," Captain Jeffery said as she recalled her collegiate career.

She also pointed out that her last semester she won four of live matches, which ranks close behind the championship in her list of accomplishments.

After graduating college in 1996, Captain Jeffery continued playing golf. Her husband was active-duty Air Force, and so she moved around quite a bit.

In 1998, she played on a professional mini tour. Her husband encouraged her to try it before they started a family. She found out that playing golf wasn't a way for her to make a living.

"1 didn't really want to do it," she said. "1 learned a lot though. I realized I didn't like the game to be a job. The level is so high to be able to make money. I enjoy winning $10 off of my friends rather than trying to win thousands on tour."

Captain Jeffery decided to follow her husband into the military. She enrolled in Southwest Texas State University, now called Texas State University, seeking a graduate degree and joining ROTC.

Upon completing her degree, she was accepted to pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, where she once again discovered what she didn't want to do for a living.

"I didn't enjoy flying." Captain Jeffery said. "So I went into protocol and eventually into services."

While still on active duty Captain Jeffery competed in her first golf competition, winning both the Air Force and Armed Forces title.

In 2003, she became an IMA, starting her reign of dominance for Air Force Reserve Command, and she did it with an added degree of difficulty.

"When I won the Air Force title that year, I was pregnant," she said. "People still hold that against me."

In 2004, as a new mother, she did not participate in the golf season, but came back in 2005 to win (he Air Force title, although she finished a disappointing second in the Armed Forces Championship.

"That really motivated me," she said. "I don't like to lost;." And lose she didn't in 2006.

While leading the Air Force to team titles in both events. Captain Jeffery won individual honors by posting a 39-stroke win in the Air Force Championship and a nine-stroke win at the Armed Forces Championship.

Captain Jeffery advanced to the Conseil International du Sport Militaire Championship, better known as CISM, in Galway, Ireland, where she and the team represented the United States in an international military tournament.

"The Ryder Cup was there this year," she said. "Just to know we were there in an international competition representing my country was great. It was a goal to make and win. 1 was having a blast."

After sweeping all the major tournaments this season, Captain Jeffery was selected as 2006 Air Force Female Athlete of the Year.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"I was very surprised," she said of her award. "It feels awesome! It's the pinnacle to cap it all off. To think how many people play Air Force sports, it's humbling."

(Sergeant Babin wrote this article while on a temporary duty assignment with Citizen Airman.)

By Master Sgt. Chance C. Babin
COPYRIGHT 2007 Air Force Reserves
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Babin, Chance C.
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:778
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