Angela Stanford pays it forward with charitable foundation

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 16: Angela Stanford of the United States celebrates winning the Evian Championship with the trophy during Day Four of The Evian Championship 2018 at Evian Resort Golf Club on September 16, 2018 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Angela Stanford pays it forward with charitable foundation

LPGA Tour

Angela Stanford pays it forward with charitable foundation

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Ty Washburn remembers looking in the mirror with one eye closed, practicing what it would be like to function with limited vision. This wasn’t idle curiosity, but rather Washburn’s fast-approaching reality.

At age 9, Washburn’s right eye was removed during surgery, along with parts of his cheekbone, upper teeth and a host of other tissues on the right side of his face. He wasn’t emotional. Washburn can’t explain how he reacted so matter-of-factly on the day cancer took away parts of his face.

“I’m thankful that was the case,” said a now-grown Washburn, “that I didn’t let that crush my spirit.”

Angela Stanford has always said that when she walked away from the LPGA, she wanted her life to still have meaning. Washburn is one of 13 college students currently on scholarship from the Angela Stanford Foundation. The 41-year-old Texan, a six-time winner on the LPGA, first hosted a charity tournament in 2006 and formed the foundation 10 years ago. 

In 2012, after her mother, Nan, had fought breast cancer, Stanford began giving scholarships to Texas students who had either battled cancer themselves or had close family members who’d been impacted by the disease.

The first scholarship application Stanford ever read came from a girl from her high school whose mother died from breast cancer. An emotional Stanford pushed back from the table and told board members that she couldn’t read anymore. It was too difficult.

Nan Stanford poses with her daughter Angela Stanford during a photo session for a Golfweek story at Dallas Baptist University. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

“We have a committee of, thankfully, people older than me,” said Stanford, “who made me sit down and said, ‘No, it’s even more important that you read it because your name is on it. You have to believe in what you’re doing.’ ”

Now students like Washburn sit across from Stanford in interviews to tell their stories. Again, Stanford is thankful for board members who keep her from giving away more than what’s in the bank.

Christian Englert is studying to become a pastor at Dallas Baptist University. His current path can be traced back to a cancer diagnosis at the age of 15. Hand tremors run in the family, but after Englert’s tremors grew progressively worse, an MRI revealed a tumor the size of a ping pong ball in the center of his brain.

Englert’s cancer, PPTID (Pineal parenchymal tumors of intermediate differentiation), was so rare he said doctors could count on one hand the number of patients who’d been diagnosed with it since 2000. He was the first teenager.

“Just getting to the tumor, they would have to move a vein that if my surgeon struck wrong, I could have a stroke and die,” he said.

Even with a successful surgery, doctors were certain there would be adverse side effects. Englert instead came out virtually unscathed. He called it a miracle.

His battle renewed his faith and gave him purpose. Now Stanford is finding hers in lending a hand.

“Without the scholarship,” said Englert from a stately study on the DBU campus, “there was a very good possibility that I wouldn’t be able to continue my education here.”

Never stop fighting

Nan Stanford couldn’t even say the word cancer when she was first diagnosed in 2009. Didn’t want anything to do with the color pink.

“I didn’t feel bad for me,” said Nan, “I just thought – why not me?”

Chemo, radiation, reconstructive surgery. She worked through it all, telling her daughter that if she was going back to the office, then Angela had to stay on tour.

Nan fought breast cancer and won.

Then last year, after a routine checkup, the doctor’s office called and asked if she was driving. 

Could she pull over?

Nan knew it was bad.

“She just said there was no cure for what I had,” Nan said. “It had gone into my bones.”

Nan kept waiting for some kind of timeline for her future, but there is none. So she kept living, going on to Arkansas as she had planned to watch Angela compete. She was in Portland too.

Franck Riboud of Evian and Jaques Bungert, Tournement Director kiss 2-10 Evian Championship winner Angela Stanford. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Nan didn’t travel to Evian, France, in 2018. Actually, she couldn’t even watch the television at home in Saginaw, Texas, when Angela found herself in contention at another major. Nan stayed in the back room praying.

“I never ask on golf,” she said of her talks with God. “Whatever happens, happens. But this time, if we could just get in a playoff. If you could just give her another chance.”

Last year Angela became the second-oldest player in LPGA history to win her first major, behind Fay Crocker, who won the 1955 U.S. Women’s Open at 40 years, 11 months. She learned that never-quit attitude from her best friend – mom.

If Nan wasn’t going to give up, if she was going to have a purpose every day, then Angela needed one too.

“That has been in the back of my mind when I think about the foundation,” said Stanford. “I’m trying to give these kids a purpose.”

Success stories

When Madison Conant’s mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2011, her father lost his job around the same time. 

“There is no Stage 5,” said Madison of the severity of the diagnosis.

Lynn Conant volunteered throughout her treatment and is now in remission. Madison said there was always an understanding that her parents weren’t going to be able to help financially with college. The four-year Angela Stanford scholarship recipient went to Collins College for two years before transferring to her dream school, Dallas Baptist. 

Madison Conant graduated debt-free in May with a degree in finance and now lives in Tennessee working as a data developer. She carried a 4.0 GPA. 

Megan Cronan was 16 when her mother, Laurie, was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors caught it early, and she’s now cancer-free. Laurie almost skipped that particular mammogram because insurance wouldn’t cover it. 

Now 20, Megan studies psychology and criminal justice at North Texas and said the scholarship brings her a sense of peace.

“I’ve always said if I had been a senior in high school when my mom was diagnosed,” Stanford said, “I don’t know where I would’ve ended up.”

In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimated that 1,735,350 new cases of cancer would be diagnosed in the United States. The number of new cancer cases per year worldwide is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.

Around the time Stanford shifted her focus to help families impacted
by cancer, board member Mike Wright’s father died of prostate cancer. Three weeks later, his mother died from a broken heart.

Angela Stanford poses with her trophy after winning the 2018 Evian Championship. Photo: JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images

Stanford’s work holds special meaning for Wright, the longtime director of golf at Shady Oaks Country Club, where Stanford is a member.

“She was bound to do something like this,” he said.

Her goal is to raise enough money to endow the scholarship fund, making it possible to give back long after she retires. To date, 46 students have received scholarships totaling $246,500. The program gives $10,000 scholarships over four years. One day she’d like to offer full rides.

Stanford didn’t grow up at a club like Shady Oaks. More like a “cow pasture,” according to Nan.

“As a matter of fact,” she said, “they’re tearing it down now to build houses.”

This a player who wears blue on Sundays in honor of her blue-collar roots. Giving back comes naturally to Stanford and brings meaning to life in ways that trophies can’t.

“You could shoot 62 the rest of your life,” she said, “and it’s not going to be the same as somebody saying, ‘You have no idea how you helped me.’ ” 

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