Joan Joyce, a legendary softball player and coach at Florida Atlantic University who also spent 19 years competing in the LPGA, died Saturday at the age of 81. News of Joyce's passing was shared by Florida Atlantic, where she had remained active as the school's head softball coach.
After playing sports from age eight onwards, Joyce made a name for herself as a professional softball player over two decades, spending two separate stints with the Raybestos Brakettes while also playing for the Orange Lionettes from 1964 to 1966. While Joyce was an 18-time all-star and set many records in her softball career, arguably her greatest accomplishments came when she struck out baseball legends Ted Williams and Hank Aaron in separate exhibition games.
Joyce was a multi-sport athlete beyond softball, competing on the 1964-1965 USA Women's Basketball team before playing in the LPGA from 1977 until 1995. During her golfing career, Joyce set the record for the lowest number of putts in a single LPGA round (17) at the 1982 Lady Michelob and had a best finish of sixth in multiple tournaments throughout the 1980s.
After retiring from the LPGA, Joyce served as Florida Atlantic's head women's golf coach from 1996 until 2014 while also putting together a legendary career as the school's softball coach. Joyce's coaching record was 1,002-674-1, and she led Florida Atlantic to 11 NCAA postseason tournaments while also earning conference coach of the year honors eight times.
Joyce was only recently credited with the 1,000th win of her softball coaching career. However, she had not been around her team since the preseason, and had undergone a recent medical procedure. Associate head coach Chan Walker had been coaching the team in her stead.
"This is a terribly sad loss for the FAU family. Joan was a true sports legend, and we are grateful for the 28 years she spent here, modeling the best in personal and professional behavior for our student-athletes," read a statement by FAU President John Kelly. "Joan's legacy will live on at the university and across the country through the generations of young women she inspired to play – and excel at – softball and golf."
Joyce is survived by her siblings Janis and Joseph, nieces Bridget and Meghan, as well as two grand-nieces and two grand-nephews.