KOHLER, Wis. – Dottie Pepper wondered if this day would ever come. A broadcasting snafu at the 2007 Solheim Cup match had seemingly blackballed her from any sort of captaincy for the American team.
Mercifully, U.S. captain Meg Mallon felt that enough was enough. Pepper will serve as an assistant captain for the 2013 Solheim Cup on Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club.
The incident occurred when a retired Pepper was broadcasting for Golf Channel at the 2007 Solheim Cup in Sweden. Pepper, who thought she was off air, referred to the U.S. tandem of Laura Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer as “choking freaking dogs.” Pepper said the man in charge back in Orlando, Fla., was literally asleep at the switch.
“There’s not a day really that goes by that I don’t regret that it happened,” she said. Some players did not take the incident lightly.
Pepper, so overwhelmed by the opportunity to serve as assistant captain, was moved to tears during the press conference.
“When I got home and I listened to the telecast, knowing Dottie as long as I’ve known her, it just was Dottie in her passion,” said Mallon of 2007. “I know it wasn’t out of ill will of any part. That’s where I feel like Dottie needed to stop carrying this burden around. And that she needs to be a part of this event, and these players need to get to know the Dottie that I know.”
Mallon referred to Pepper was the face of the Solheim Cup in the ’90s, her fiery spirit drawing fire from the European side. The six-time Solheim participant has earned the third-highest points in U.S. Solheim Cup history, with 14, behind Juli Inkster (18 1/2) and Mallon (16 1/2). Pepper retired from the LPGA tour in 2004 after 17 victories in 17 years, including two major championships. In 1992, she was the Rolex Player of the Year and won the Vare Trophy for low-scoring average.
Pepper’s experience covering Ryder Cups and a Presidents Cup for NBC will bring a behind-the-scenes knowledge that could help the American team.
“I’ve seen a lot over the last eight years, and I know that I can help,” Pepper said.
Pepper and Mallon have talked with players who were on that 2007 team. Pepper maintains the same stance she’s had the last five years: “They can have at me.”
Paula Creamer joined the LPGA the year after Pepper retired, so the two don’t know each other well. If Pepper was the Solheim’s face in the ’90s, Creamer is that player now for Team USA, though their styles are quite different.
“I’m looking forward to picking her brain on how it is to be so competitive and feisty,” Creamer said. “Not only that, but become a friend, too.”
Pepper will serve as a color analyst at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open for NBC. She tied for 11th in 1998 when the USWO was last held at Blackwolf Run and remembers crying in the shower on Sunday night.
“I just had nothing left in the tank,” she said.
This time around, she’ll have an air-conditioned seat from which to view the wreckage. Pepper will bring her extensive knowledge to this week’s broadcast, entertaining audiences with her direct, no-nonsense comments. Then she’ll wait for those two magic words: “You’re clear.”
And hope someone hits the switch.