Read Tom Finley's new book, Golf, In So Many Words - The 257 Most Essential Things to Know About the Game of Golf

Read some of the excerpts included on this site by clicking on FinleyOnGolf.com/Books

Available now at most book websites including:

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble.com

Publishamerica.com

 

BACK TO ARTICLES

 

 

 

Articles

 

DOTTIE PEPPER, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU?
The Changing of the Guard on the LPGA Tour


I probably spend less time watching or reading about the LPGA Tour than ever before. It seems that all of my favorites are beginning to fade as competitors or have retired and I haven’t found an American on Tour that really and truly excites me. Obviously, Michelle Wie promises to be a phenom but she is only 15 years old and not out of Junior High yet.

There is something about me, perhaps you feel the same way, that requires that I identify with golfers in some way. Let me readily admit that I am a big Phil Mickelson fan. I jumped through the ceiling of my home when he won the Masters in April. In fact, I might have jumped higher than he did on the 18th green. So why have I selected Lefty as my favorite? Probably because I saw him as the underdog as he was constantly having to answer questions from the golf media as to why he had never won a major, or when he was going to win or why he had just lost his last one, etc., etc. Also, he is an American, a very nice fellow with a great smile, a family man with a beautiful family and a terrific shot maker. In addition, I like the way he carries himself on the course. I’ve never heard an expletive come out of him or seen him toss a club. He also has had the tendency to take a risk, to gamble on the course reminiscent of Arnold Palmer. I contrast that against everybody else’s favorite, Tiger Woods, who in my opinion suffers from overexposure. The golf writers can’t seem to interview a golfer, any golfer, without asking a question about Tiger. The writers want everybody to talk about Tiger and they seem to only write about Tiger. His image is everywhere on television ads, in magazines. Newspapers give Tiger the headlines in every tournament in which he plays regardless of where he stands, first or twentieth. Over time it becomes almost noxious. So I suppose you could say I am the “anti-Tiger” fan. Don’t get me wrong, I think Tiger is a great golfer, a nice guy and I enjoy watching him play plus he‘s an American also. And, he could become the greatest all time. I just prefer to pull for an underdog, somebody other than the number one player. Again, I just get tired of hearing about Tiger.

                                                                   

     Dottie Pepper                                          Hilary Lunke                                     Aree Song

As for the women, I use to pull for the Furman golfers as Furman University is nearby. Betsy King and Beth Daniel were great to watch and cheer for. Then my favorite, Dottie Pepper, came along and got everybody excited with her energy and feistiness. Dottie was always fist pumping and shouting, “yes, yes, yes.“ as she watched a putt trickle into the cup. She was always at her best when she had to make a putt to win or come from behind on Sunday. Dottie was so spunky and hard to beat in match play. Nancy Lopez, a Tulsa University graduate, was the closest thing to an Arnold Palmer on the ladies’ circuit with her charisma and great play. She had a huge following on tour. I also like and respect Julie Inkster a great deal. She has had a terrific career but she is 44 now and entering the twilight of her career as are King and Daniel. Dottie and Nancy have retired. I am really going to miss watching Dottie. So who will become my newest favorite on the Tour and encourage me to retain an interest in following the LPGA ?

One of my problems is the new look of the LPGA Tour. It has really become a culturally diverse, international tour. In many ways that is very exciting and alluring as it is on the men’s tour but it seems the old American tour as we knew it, is a thing of the past. A look at the top 30 money winners this season with only a month or so left in the year, only nine Americans are listed. Meg Mallon is second on the list and is having a great year but for some reason she just hasn‘t caught my fancy. Of course, all the interest and attention is given to Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, who is number one in the world and great to watch but everybody expects her to win week after week. I saw her come from behind to win another yesterday at the Samsung World Championship. It was her 54th title. She borders on over exposure but I think her management group guards against it. Annika is terrific and great to watch but I still need an underdog. As an American and a patriot I feel in my heart that my favorite should probably hail from the USA. Simply, I can identify more with an American. There are 12 countries represented on the Top 30 list believe it or not. You could make a case that the LPGA could be the Korean tour with nine Koreans in the top 30 and many others playing the tour. At present there aren’t many Americans poised to win on tour regularly. I hate to be provincial but I always end up pulling for the Americans.

Christie Kerr seems to have a good chance of becoming America’s best. She is 27 now and seasoned and fifth on the Top 30 list. Of course, Michele Wie has great potential but it will be a few years before she plays the tour full time. Perhaps I should drop my American requirement and go for looks. Carin Koch is a beautiful woman who hails from Sweden but she might not be able to compete at the highest level. She is 29th on the money list right now. Carin did go to school in the United States at Tulsa. In fact many of the great foreign golfers were educated at American universities including Annika who matriculated at Arizona U. Fifteen of the top 30, foreign born money winners were also educated at American universities. I also like the way Lorena Ochoa of Mexico looks and plays and she went to Arizona as well. Aree Song, who was born in Thailand, but claims Korea as her homeland, is a real looker and proving herself on Tour. So what to do; who to choose?

One of the more exciting women’s events in last few years to me was the 2003 US Women’s Open when Hilary Lunke won in an exciting playoff with husband, Tylar, on her bag. They seemed to be the all-American couple and Hilary won despite her lack of length off the tee. She has had a very good amateur record but this season she has slumped and won less than $80,000 on Tour. Maybe she could be my new favorite - but - it is probably too early to determine what kind of impact she will make on tour. Let’s see how she fares over the next season or two. Perhaps I’ll just hang in there with Julie Inkster and learn more about Meg Mallon. Beth Daniel is still playing and has a good tournament every now and then and has made the top 30 list this year. Then in time Michelle Wie will come along full time and take the golf world by storm. Let’s see how it all works out. In the mean time I’ll just have to watch Dottie Pepper as a TV commentator and remember the good old days. What we really need, or should I say what the LPGA really needs, is for more American girls to take up the game and to work hard to become world class competitors. Otherwise, that organization might need to pack up and move it’s headquarters to the Orient.

Tom Finley
October 18, 2004


Click here to contact us!