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She was a natural, standout athlete

Linda Strahan, who was once profiled in Golf World magazine, would beat her husband at tennis, even though he taught her to play.

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 2, 2002

Linda Strahan

Jim Strahan played football and basketball at the University of Nebraska. He played professional golf and excelled at tennis. Only a handful of athletes could top him on the playing field.

One of them, it turns out, was his wife.

Linda Strahan was a standout swimmer and tennis player and was once profiled in Golf World magazine for her prowess on the links.

"She was just an ambitious person," Jim Strahan said. "No matter what she did, she would be the best at it."

Linda Strahan died July 15 after a long battle with cancer. She was 54.

That Mrs. Strahan turned out to be an outstanding athlete came as a surprise to both her and her husband. Despite growing up near water, she never learned to swim as a child. She was not involved in athletics at Plant High School or St. Petersburg Junior College.

Jim Strahan said his wife had a tough childhood, which helped her develop a competitive drive.

"Her parents were divorced at a young age," he said. "She wasn't in poverty, but she didn't have a lot of nice things, and she wanted to live a better life and succeed. That was her motive."

It was Jim who taught her how to swim and play golf and tennis.

"We tried to play tennis once, and I said, 'I'm going to give you a lesson a week for a year,' and I did," he said. "And then she beat the hell out of me."

"She could run me off the court. She just was a good, natural athlete."

Mrs. Strahan was a quick -- and voracious -- learner, playing golf nearly every day and taking lessons from local instructors as often as possible.

Her improvement was nothing short of incredible. In one year, she went from a 38 handicap to an 8, piquing the interest of Golf World magazine. The publication profiled her as the most improved golfer in one year.

She began playing in national tournaments after befriending Alice Dye, a standout amateur golfer and, along with husband Pete, a renowned golf architect.

Dye "took her under her wing," Jim Strahan said.

Mrs. Strahan traveled the country to amateur tournaments and championships featuring future LPGA hall of famers, including Patty Sheehan.

But in her mid-30s, Mrs. Strahan's golfing career was cut short. A back injury from a car crash years earlier had worsened with age. At a tournament in Lakeland, she hit a shot and collapsed to her knees in pain.

Five operations later, she was unable to play tennis or competitive golf, though she continued to swim.

She also continued her work as a legal secretary. She worked for years in several firms before coming to work at her husband's insurance business in 1991.

"Linda was so interested in doing the employee benefit part, with group medical and 401(k) plans, that I just put her at the head of that department," Jim Strahan said. "She did wonderfully well with it. She really was a top producer and did a wonderful job servicing all those clients."

Mrs. Strahan was also a devoted volunteer at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, where she ran a charity fashion show to benefit college students. She also helped organize golf tournaments for charities.

"She was a wonderful person," Jim Strahan said. "She was very hard-working, a workaholic. She was dedicated to everything she ever did."

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Strahan is survived by her mother, LaVerne Myers; her sister, Diane McCabe; her nephew, Thomas McCollum; and her niece, Carolyn Rusch.

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