Q&A: LPGA Legends roundtable
From the recent LPGA Legends Tour event at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.:
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Welcome to Golfweek.com. Thank you for joining us today. I’m here at Innisbrook, surrounded by greatness. Five LPGA legends: Jan Stephenson, Pat Bradley, Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, JoAnne Carner. We thank you so much for joining us . . . between the five of you, you have 171 LPGA victories, which is quite a tally. We’re just going to start right from the top with an important issue, the Women’s Senior Open. The men have had one since 1980. What’s taking so long, and what are you ladies going to do about it? What have you tried to do about it?
Bradley: We have tried to make them aware. I went to a few of the meetings. I went to San Francisco, The Broadmoor. The moment they saw me, they made an about-face and went the other way. We’ve tried and hopefully, I think, from what I read in a magazine, (U.S. Golf Association former executive director) David Fay and the USGA are now thinking about it. I’m very, very excited about it, because if they don’t hurry up, I’m going to miss my tee time. I want an opportunity to go for another national title just like my peers on the men’s senior tour. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, I’m saying a Hail Mary and we’ll see what happens.
Golfweek: How important is it to all of you to play in this championship?
Carner: I’ve been waiting forever, literally. I thought with the advent of such great players out here that the USGA would realize that a Women’s Senior would be ideal. And they give you all kinds of alibis. I’ve talked to I don’t know how many of them because a lot of them are very good friends of mine. They say, ‘Well, there aren’t enough players.’ Well, look at our roster. There are plenty of players. Plus, when we first had the U.S. Women’s Open, we didn’t have enough pros to fill the fields, so we had amateurs, and it made great golf because the amateurs always thought they were as good as the pros. So you had that battle starting at every U.S. Open. We have a lot of women’s seniors that are very good amateur players, but I don’t think we need them. We already have enough.
Golfweek: Clearly, you need another big USGA title, because you don’t have enough!
Carner: It has been so many years since I had a chance to beat Bobby Jones’ titles, USGA . . . but they forgot about me.
Daniel: It’s a big hole in their championship schedule and, unfortunately for us, we’re the only ones that they don’t have a tournament for. I just don’t think it looks good on the USGA’s part. I certainly would’ve loved the chance to play for another national championship again, but I didn’t have that chance when I turned 50. Still don’t have that chance. For us, we look at the Champions Tour and things like that, and it’s kind of hard to take in some respects because once you leave the LPGA tour, there’s very little out there for us at this age. And then you look at the guys, and they continue on and are doing very very well with the Champions Tour. It’s a big hole in the schedule, I think.
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Golfweek: Nancy, can you talk about fan support? I understand the galleries still come out here (to a Legends event). Do you think a U.S. Senior Women’s Open would be well-attended?
Lopez: I would hope so. I think when you look at the players who are playing on the Legends Tour, to me they were the cream of the crop of the LPGA tour years ago. They were the players who brought more people out to watch women’s golf. They were the players who had a lot of personality and really made the LPGA tour shine. I watched JoAnne Carner when I was an amateur getting ready to come on the tour and watched her and her ability to have fun, to play golf, to make it look like fun no matter what she was doing, she always looked the same. I watched her and then when I came out there was Bradley and Daniel and (Patty) Sheehan and Jan (Stephenson). The people who came out to watch loved it. There was a lot of competition, head-to-head rivalries, and still on the Legends Tour, these players mean business. They play hard. I haven’t played well, so I kind of watch them and root for them. But it’s fun to see that golf is still what they truly love to do.
To have a U.S. Women’s Senior Open would be fantastic. I’d have to really work on my game because I’d like to play well. I never won a Women’s Open. But you know in any kind of women’s golf we’ve always had to fight very hard to get what we deserved. Unfortunately, we always seem to be behind the times following the guys. There are days I just hit my head against the wall and wonder why, because they work just as hard, they give back just as much and truly the fans really feel like our tours. The Legends Tour and the LPGA are more approachable. So why not? We should definitely have that opportunity.
Golfweek: Jan, I understand that this tour was started when 25 players put $5,000 apiece into a hat and tried to get the ball rolling. Can you talk about the growth of this tour and why it’s just as important for the players themselves as for the fans?
Stephenson: It’s something that’s really important to us because we get to compete again. And it’s a different level. When we played, we had so many great personalities – not just they would play. I think that’s what made it so popular. Our galleries were enormous. But now we appreciate it more. I’m so much closer friends now because we don’t play every week. When something good or bad happens in our life, every one of us is there to support. It’s really neat. We have become like a true family. It’s sad that when we don’t have the opportunity (from the USGA) to have a U.S. Senior Women’s Open. It’s total inequality. The thing that really bothered me this year was their campaign was, ‘We have a tournament for every player,’ and they don’t. So they’re actually lying. It really bothers me.
Daniel: It’s the truth, though. Good point there.
Bradley: I remember growing up . . . we supported the USGA since I was a little girl. I’d go with my dad and we’d make that cliche, ‘Oh, this is to win the U.S. Open,’ blah, blah blah. But it really is true. But all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Don’t call us; we’ll call you when we’re ready.’ I don’t understand why all of a sudden I’m not worthy. We’re not worthy. . . . I always thought it was a no-brainer. They kept saying venue and money. There are plenty of golf courses where there’s a course over here and a course over here. Put the Senior Women’s Amateurs there and put us over here, and on Sunday give both trophies. This way you kill two birds with one stone, if it’s a problem, if it’s a hassle. I don’t understand why they are so late in recognizing the importance of this age. I understand the importance of the 10-to-12-year-olds. But the importance of this age, our age, is just as important. We can tell you, it keeps us alive. It keeps the juices flowing. It keeps our dreams alive. The Legends Tour has maintained that, and I was hoping the USGA would see it sooner than it has.
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Golfweek: Very well said. This tour is having its best season, in terms of number of tournaments, the (Legends) Hall of Fame opening. Why the momentum now?
Stephenson: It’s just knocking on doors. We actually started the tour younger because we wanted to make sure Lopez got in.
Lopez: I was 40, and I was confused. I played horrible that tournament because I’m sitting here going, ‘OK, am I supposed to like try and win this tournament? I’m 40. I don’t feel like a senior.’ I just could’ve get over that. But it was fun they included me at the time. Of course there were issues at the very beginning because we still had the LPGA tour, and I had issues only because I didn’t want to have any events that went against an LPGA event. Not that we were going to, but that was where I was nervous that the LPGA wasn’t going to give us their blessing. That was important to me because all of us have done so much to grow the tour, and we didn’t want to take anything away from that. But playing on the Legends Tour was important because, like I said, this was the tour to me that made LPGA golf. Excluding me, take me out of it, they were the players that made it exciting, that you wanted to watch, that played great golf, hit it a long way, head-to-head great competition. I loved it. It was the best time for the LPGA tour at that time, and everybody knew who we were.
Stephenson: They were the names you know in golf. Even the girls out here who were our age, there are so many of us. Everybody had somebody that they liked, that was a favorite. Everybody knew our personalities. And we did so much on television, and we had some great galleries. The part that’s really sad now is that we’re not on television. I’ve had to buy golf equipment. That just freaks me out. They’re like, ‘Well if you were on TV, we’d give it to you for free.’ I think of all the times . . . that’s just really, really sad.
Golfweek: That’s sobering.
Daniel: It is what we get, though. You have to fight and claw for equipment or anything like that.
Stephenson: It was interesting because on our board of the Legends Tour we had John Sununu (former White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush), and when he heard that we had no Women’s Senior Open and what we had to go through, he was like, ‘We need to get all the women in Congress involved because this is disgraceful.’ We were afraid that if we did something like that, it would be like Martha Burk (the feminist and Augusta National protagonist) and have a negative connotation, and we didn’t want that when we’ve worked so hard for the tour. So we sat back and waited for somebody to help, and it didn’t come.
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Golfweek: Switching gears just for a second . . . JoAnne, I read a story that was written a little while ago, and the lead of the story said you were obviously ‘entering the back nine of your career.’ That story was written in 1982.
Stephenson: No way! That’s the front nine.
Carner: I assume he’s dead by now.
Golfweek: I’m sure you’ve outlived him, definitely. So my question is, what is the secret to longevity in your golf game? I saw you sink so many putts today . . .
Carner: I take it serious, but when I’m playing I have as much fun playing the trouble shot as I do a regular shot. I never swore my entire career, but as a senior I’m starting to learn. (laughter) It just isn’t quite what it used to be. I’ve worked hard, but then I play hard. It was never my total life.
Golfweek: The trend on tour now is to join at 16, 17, 18. This is a question for all you ladies. Do you think burnout is going to be a problem for future stars of the LPGA? Will they have careers that have been as long as yours?
Carner: No one will have one as long as mine. They just don’t want to. A lot of them have family, and their whole life changes with that. I just think as long as your interest is there and you’re physically able, why not?
Golfweek: Just for fun. Can you tell us the story about the time you outdrove Arnold Palmer?
Carner: We were playing an exhibition in Seattle, Wash., at Broadmoor Golf Club, and the head pro there was probably one of the finest, not only teachers, but players in the Pacific Northwest. And he was teamed with Arnold Palmer, and I was teamed with probably one of the best women amateur players in the world, Anne Quast, Decker, Welts, Sander. She had so many married names, I can’t remember. So anyway. . . . She and I were teamed against the two guys. We get there and there’s like 10,000 people and one foursome, and the teeing ground is about 5 yards wide. These people just go all the way down. Anne is going to play the ladies tees, and I’m back with the guys. I said to Arnie, ‘I can’t play here.’ He said, ‘Well, what’s wrong?’ I said ‘Well, Jesus. I feel like Gerald Ford hitting somebody. It’s too narrow. I never drove it that straight in my life.’ He said ‘Don’t worry, JoAnne, you’re gonna do fine.’ So anyway he convinced me, so I teed it up and I hit it and it went straight and I was so relieved. The guys hit after me and then Anne hits from the front tee. It’s a par 5, and Anne plays the first second shot, the local pro plays his second shot short of the green. Arnie and I are next, and I go over and it’s not my ball and Arnie is about 30 yards up from me. So I move over and Arnie looks at the ball and realizes it’s not his, so he comes walking back. He whacks it up on the right side of the green, on in two. I go up to my ball, proceed to hit a 5-iron 3 feet from the hole. The two others par, Arnie two-putts for birdie and I knock in a 3-footer for eagle. We get to the second hole and every muscle in his body goes, Whoa! I never came close to outdriving him again. He had an easy 64.
Daniel: That is a good story. That’s one I’ve never heard.
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Golfweek: Beth, this one is for you. I was talking to Laura Davies earlier. Still playing the tour at 50, she said it’s just not as fun as it used to be on the LPGA. Anyone else can chime in on this. Is that true? Was it more fun in the golden era?
Daniel: I think it was more fun in the golden era, and I think it’s because we all wanted to beat each other very badly. But at the end of the day, we’d go out to dinner with each other and say, You know what? Well done. And now, it’s kind of what JoAnne alluded to, the fact that she had fun. If you look at our era, all of us had one thing in common: We played the game because we truly loved it. We didn’t play for the money, because there was money to be had, but not enough when we first got started to play for the money. We played truly for the love of the game, and that’s why we got into it and that’s why we worked so hard. I think all of us wanted to be the best, and we worked really hard to be the best. But then at the end of the day, we wanted to beat each other’s brains in, but if you didn’t, you could really respect what the other person did. Throughout the tour, I was really good friend with Patty Sheehan and I was always like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to dinner this week,’ and we all really knew what was going on in each other’s lives and kept up with that and cared about each other. Not that they don’t now, but I think when you really look at the age that some of these players are coming out and they’re sort of pushed to turn pro at a young age, I think you learn to resent the game a little bit. I talk to so many players now that play because they feel like they have to. They don’t play because they love it.
Carner: We never had to support anybody else, either. No family, trainers.
Bradley: The entourage. We didn’t have an entourage.
Stephenson: It has become such a big business, but I think still the main part is if you think of the personalities, we all had our own fans, Sheehan and (Amy) Alcott and all of us. We had lots and lots of fan mail, and in those days we had it in like a mailbox. They’d send it to the tournaments, and we’d have a box in the locker room and we’d pull out our mail and everyone would sit around during rain delays and read everyone’s fan mail. It was really fun, and it was a totally different lifestyle. We had to all be together, and a lot of times we drove. We’d ride together and fly together, and we had to do everything together. In Japan, we couldn’t wait to be on the bus together to go to the golf course. It was totally fun, everything we did. The personalities, everyone in America, they knew our personalities. And now it’s almost like they’re all the same. Everybody is like a clone; they’re like robots. They have to be, to a certain extent, on the golf course because there is big business and they have to be focused. I can remember watching Nancy making a putt, and just the emotion; you could see how excited she was when she made a putt. I remember all the photos of her making a putt and jumping up and down. I remember her making a putt in Portland to beat me, and it was only 4 feet and she jumped this high off the ground. The emotion. She wanted it so bad, and you don’t see that anymore, like it’s a job.
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Golfweek: To that end, what advice would you give the stars on tour today?
Stephenson: I think a lot of it has to do with a lot of the Asian players. Their custom is to not show emotion, and we were all very emotional. So that makes it difficult, because it’s not something you’re used to. I don’t blame the players. I blame the officials or the LPGA for not saying, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do.’ When I first came over here (from Australia), nobody knew who I was, and our commissioner said, ‘Look, this is what we need to do to kind of change the image, and this is what you need to do to help the tour, whether it’s photos or doing a spread; that’s what’s going to help the tour.’ Nancy would go play golf with some of the potential sponsors, and we would do whatever it took to help the tour. I think somebody has got to sit down these girls and say, This is what it’s going to take. You need to learn the personalities or educate the public on your personality. It’s not that they don’t have personality; it’s just they don’t show it on the golf course.
Lopez: I think we worked very hard for the LPGA tour, because we knew we had to. I think players nowadays, not all of them, maybe they do – the question I’ve wanted to ask every one of them on a sheet of paper is, Why do you think a sponsor works all year to have a tournament for you? And I want to really know what the answer is and then I want to ask them, What are you going to do for the sponsor? I think our players, that group, knew that we had to schmooze a sponsor, play with them. Pro-am day, to me, was not a practice round. It was a day of entertaining. That’s what was going to bring that sponsor back and bring two or three other teams with them. I think players now feel like they’re supposed to have a golf tournament for us; we are the LPGA tour. I don’t believe I ever felt that way. I always thought we had to work really hard to come back to that tournament at that golf course the next year. That was what was important to me. I loved the LPGA tour. There were days I didn’t want to do what they asked me to do, and I didn’t. But when I was married, my husband then said if it’s something you need to do for the LPGA tour, you need to do it. So I did it, and I smiled as I did it, and it was good for me that I smiled because it opened a lot of doors for me. But there were days I didn’t want to do it, but I did it because I loved my fellow professionals and I wanted my tour to grow.
Bradley: I thought the same thing. I thought Wednesday . . . if this was my job, Wednesday was my job of really working and making the best experience I could for my amateurs. Which gave me the opportunity on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to just take it all, if everything went well. My goodness, they are just asking me to spend five hours with these folks, and this is the nuts and bolts of a tournament. This is what really funds our events, and after that I’m my own man; I’m my own boss; I’m my own person. I can practice hard, play well and win a lot of money or I can goof off. We didn’t. We practiced hard, and we went out to try and win the tournament. But Wednesday was the day I really focused. I was going to make it the best experience I could for the people who paid money to play with me. People were paying money to spend time with me? Single-minded me? But we had a great time. I wasn’t trying to learn the golf course. I had done that Monday and Tuesday. I was just out there letting them do their thing. If I hit a 9, they were going to hit a sand wedge. They weren’t going for the eight.
Beth: I think that was engrained in us. I know when I was a rookie, Donna Caponi was on me all the time if I was not doing something right. I came to the course one time as a rookie, and Donna looked at my shoes and said, You need to go back in the locker room and clean your shoes. They’re too dirty. I did it because Donna Caponi told me to do it. It was engrained in us that Wednesday was the entertainment day. I’ll tell you, I didn’t love Wednesdays because Wednesdays weren’t about me and they weren’t about my golf. I went out there and I wanted to make sure those people that I played with had the best day they could have that day because they were putting the cash out that I was playing for. That’s a big difference. I think there are some issues now with players practicing and doing all kinds of things on pro-am days. We didn’t do that. We didn’t hit extra putts or anything like that. We just played the pro-am, entertained them, and at the end of the day, you could go out and practice and get ready for the tournament to start.
Carner: I was just going to agree with all of you. And I’m sure all of you would agree with me that some of the best friends you’ve had in the world are from playing in pro-ams. It started with the pro-am, and you wouldn’t play with them next year, but they would be at the tournament. And you would make a point to see them, and if you have time, go to dinner. That’s what I remember about the pro-ams. What makes Innisbrook different from Miami is the people.
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Golfweek: A lot of the favorite stops that you might have had along the way are gone now. The tour has changed a lot, especially domestically. If you were commissioner for a day, what events would you like to see return? What cities do you wish the tour still went to?
Bradley: I’d love to see Hershey, Pa., come back.
Daniel: Corning was great. Rochester, how it used to be. Those would probably be the three.
Bradley: Springfield, dear little Springfield. Sarasota.
Stephenson: Oh, yeah. Sarasota. Bent Tree. I can remember on a Tuesday, they’d be parking people and they’d all be lined up. They’d bring their picnic lunches, and we’d all be like, Wow, ’cause they’re all retired. This is really cool. Now on the LPGA they don’t even get those kind of galleries on a regular day, let alone a practice round.
Daniel: Sarasota, I hit seven people in one round.
Golfweek: That’s gotta be a record.
Daniel: I hit two people on my drive and my second shot, and I shot 69. It was a JoAnne Carner round. That’s how many people were out there.
Golfweek: That’s not at all testament to how you were hitting it. (laughing)
Daniel: I was hitting it crooked.
Carner: I only hit two people in my entire life.
Stephenson: There’s no way.
Carner: Nobody went down the right side!
Bradley: I remember Springfield, Ill., when we first went to the Rail, dear Rail.
Stephenson: No jail at the Rail.
Bradley: I don’t know where the people came from but we had great galleries.
Lopez: Carner liked it because she could hit it everywhere and make eagle or birdie.
Bradley: I remember when we first went to Springfield, there were cracks in the middle of the fairway. No sprinkling system ,and the ball would bound like it was on a highway. JoAnne almost drove all the par 4s. But because of us coming and people seeing it, the golf course grew and it matured. They put in a brand new sprinkling system, and by the time we left, it was lush!
Stephenson: If you hit it down the rough, it would run.
Carner: I always aimed for the middle of the golf course.
Lopez: I thought of Carner every time I drove into Springfield. She’ll probably win this week. She can drive it everywhere and still make birdie or eagle. She just hit it so long.
Bradley: Oh, JoAnne, they just loved you. They loved us all, but you were something.
Stephenson: She was the queen of Springfield.
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Golfweek: Since you’ve been to several PGA Tour events now to watch Keegan play, what differences did you notice that maybe you hadn’t expected about life on the Tour?
Bradley: We had security, but the security on the PGA Tour is just unbelievable. And now they build platforms to keep the boys away from (fans). We’ve always been known as an interacting association. That’s what people can relate to. You’re not up in a stand; you’re right along the gallery ropes. The guys get treated royally, but they are playing for an $8 million purse. Keegan is living a great life. He’s enjoying it and doesn’t take it for granted. He’s having a great time.
Golfweek: This is a little personal. I don’t know if this will be edited or not, but I wanted to talk about pensions. You look at what (Keegan is) going to enjoy when his day is done, and I’m curious . . .
Daniel: On tour, I remember the meeting. We set up the first one. We were the very first sports organization to set up a pension fund. I remember when Ray Volpe stood up in that meeting and said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ And were were like, ‘We don’t have enough money right now; we should wait.’ He said, ‘We’re not waiting.’ It turned out to be not such a great thing.
Stephenson: Only because as the commissioners changed, they did not keep adding to it. If it had stayed on the program . . . because the PGA (Tour) actually copied it. But when we had all that catastrophic money, all that money should’ve gone in there when it wasn’t used. Instead they ended up choosing some weird charity at the end of the year. The charity begins at home here; we put this tour together. It’s very sad to think that, for example, I was on tour for 38 years and I got $177,000. Who would work at any business, any job, for 38 years and get $177,000 for your whole life?
Golfweek: Is it any better now for today’s players?
Daniel: I don’t think so. I don’t think the contributions now are anything great.
Carner: I think they’re doing their own.
Stephenson: We weren’t making that much money. Somebody asked how much money I made when I won the U.S. Women’s Open. No. 1, I don’t remember, but they win $500,000 now. I think I made $38,000.
Daniel: I’ll tell you what. I think a lot of us might end up with more money than the current players because they’re dishing it out to coaches, trainers, paying sports psychologists, parents to travel with them. They’re dishing out so much money, I think a lot of us may end up in the long run with more money than the current players in retirement funds.
Bradley: Our parents, they were seen, but they were never heard.
Daniel: I don’t know. Your mother was heard a few times.
Golfweek: Wasn’t there a bell?
Pat: I gotta tell you a story. My mom watched me play the Mixed Team, which was here at Innisbrook at the Copperhead. I was playing with my brother Mark, who was a PGA pro, and the reason I was able to do that is because Annika (Sorenstam) played with her husband. Keegan caddied for his dad; he was 12 years old. We get to one hole and we’re playing with Tommy Armour and Amy Alcott. After we finish the hole, Tommy and Amy are putting and they’re kind of like giving each other a lesson and my mom goes, ‘Hey, guys, come on. Gotta go to the tee.’ Tommy Armour looks at my mom and says, ‘You know, ma’am, that is not a talking ticket you have.’ So it was very innocent; it was very cute.
Carner: Jan, when you first came over here, your father caddied for you.
Stephenson: He did. He took a long service leave. He worked for the government in Australia. Every year he took six months’ long service leave, and I’m glad he did. He said, ‘I’m not going to wait until I retire before I enjoy my money.’
Carner: Tell me why he quit. He used to tell you what club you hit.
Stephenson: What happened is, you’re a caddie so that means there are three ups: Keep up, shut up and show up. He said, I will let you do that, but the moment you walk off 18, I’m your dad again. OK, OK.
Carner: I remember him saying to me – and he’d been out there two or three years – and he said, I’ve finally got it through my head that I’m not hitting the shot. Maybe I want to hook it and she wants to fade it. I finally realized to keep my mouth shut.
Stephenson: It happened on one hole we were playing Stanwich; we were on the 17th hole. I wanted to hit 5-wood in the old days of persimmon. He said, ‘Oh, no; you need to go over the water. You need to hit 3. I said, ‘Dad I’m pretty pumped. I’m going to win the tournament. I need to hit 5.’ You just don’t want to be short. I hit the 3, flew the green, went down into the trees and made double. So I lost the tournament by one. I finished the hole. My parents would drive to the next tournament and I had a plane, so I would fly. And they would drive to the next tournament and they’d do sightseeing, and I’d do corporate outings, so I wouldn’t get there until Tuesday or Wednesday. For the first time he had jewelry sitting when he picked me up. He said, ‘I’ll never do it again.’
Lopez: Our dads were different. The families now, the kids that are playing on the LPGA tour now, I feel bad for them because they can’t fail. My dad always let me fail, and I when I did fail, I always got a hug for it. It wasn’t, You gotta practice harder. I wasn’t reprimanded, and I feel like that happens (now). I always give this example: I was playing in the U.S. Open when I was 17, in Philadelphia. I played horribly. After two days, I was 12 over par. I walked off 18 and my dad was following me. I said, ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t play better.’ He looked at me and he hugged me and said, ‘It’s OK, honey. I don’t want to see you at 25 over par anyway.’ It was OK to play bad; it wasn’t the end of the world, and it wasn’t like we had to win all the time. Play good, do your best and that was what was important to our parents.
Daniel: Failure is how you learn, and it’s also what motivates you. I bet you played great in the next tournament you played in because you went and worked your butt off because you wanted to prove you were a better player.
Stephenson: I think we were tougher on ourselves than our parents were. I remember I three-putted two of the last three one time and I got in the car, and because I was always doing photos, I was always on a diet and always had to go work out. I would go work out and then come back and putt.
Carner: Me, too
Stephenson: We were on the way to the gym, and I was crying so hard; I was bawling. We got to the gym, and I didn’t get out of the car. Normally my parents would go have a drink at the bar while I worked out and we’d go have dinner after that. Or we’d go back to the course and putt. I remember my dad sitting at the gym and then turning around and driving to McDonald’s, saying, ‘I think you need some French fries.’
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Golfweek: Not very long ago, I think most of us thought Yani (Tseng) was going to be unstoppable for a very long time. How does a player – a top player – who has lost her mental edge, get it back?
Daniel: Baby steps. You can lose it like that. It takes one golf shot or one thing and you lose your confidence. You have to take baby steps to get it back. You’re never going to get it all back at once. I went through it with the yips, like, three times in my career. I’d hit one bad putt, and all of a sudden it’s in my head I can’t putt. Literally it was like, OK, let’s start over. Gradually, over time, it would come back. Golf is so up and down; it’s so mental. I always get a kick out of when a player plays well for, like, six months and everyone is like, ‘Oh, she or he is going to be on top forever.’ If you play the sport of golf, you know that someone’s not going to be on top forever. It just does not happen in this game.
Carner: Yeah, Tiger. I was trying to win the 35th win, because the LPGA rules, you have to win two separate majors (to get into the HOF). I won two U.S. Opens, but that didn’t count. So therefore instead of 30 wins and two majors, I had to win 35 events. I was getting close to the 35th one and I have one to go and I’m playing Rochester. I’m just playing lights out because I’m just going to get this over with, right? I had a lead of, I think, eight, or maybe it was six, but anyway it was a lot, and somebody walks by and says, ‘What are you trying to do, lap us?’ I said ‘Well, if I could, yes.’ Well, I lost by six. I just got out there and hit one bad shot, as you said, and my mind was not there. And I was trying so hard. And no matter what I did, it wasn’t good.
Daniel: And the harder you tried, the worse it gets.
Carner: After that, I said it if it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be. And, of course, I did.
Stephenson: You talk about the pressure that’s out there now. There’s so much pressure from them all to do well, and the competition is so tight. And I think a lot of it might even do with the equipment. We had to hit 2-irons out of long grass. Well now you’ve got rescues and you’ve got hybrids and metal woods and all these great wedges. It was a lot harder to play back then and score like they do now. The equipment has put everybody more equal because they don’t have to be a great shotmaker.
Lopez: And we were shotmakers, definitely. We made up shots with clubs. When you had a sand wedge, you made that into a lob wedge, which now a lob wedge hits that shot for you. When you talk about pressure, for Yani, because I’ve talked to her a lot. When I went through a bad streak for me, which was early and I didn’t play well . . .
Stephenson: When was that? (laughs)
Lopez: It was my third year on tour. I won three tournaments, but I don’t know how I did win them because I was struggling.
Daniel: What does that say for the rest of us? (laughing)
Lopez: Knowing what I could do and knowing what I wasn’t doing was really tough. I remember feeling very alone. You’re alone a lot. You’re alone in your mind, and when you’re teeing off you wish it was 18. I felt that. When I finished every round, every day, I would go back to my room and cry, just cry. I had to, to relieve the pressure. When you walked off the golf course and you had to sign those autographs, you had to act like you were OK. But when you got back to your room, you were this totally distraught person. I mean, I was. I cried, and I got through it that way. I think for Yani, she needs to go cry. She needs to not read the articles, not go home and hear all the, ‘Why aren’t you winning?’ When you’re not playing well, you cannot surround yourself with people that want to know why you’re not playing well. You’ve got to get people that are very positive because you are so alone in that situation and you are the only one that can get you out of it. You’ve got to think every day positive; you’ve got to work hard; you’ve got to practice hard enough to where you say, OK, I’ve got it. I’ve got this chip shot. I’m putting better. All these teachers and all this mental stuff, they can’t help you. They haven’t been in that situation. They don’t know the pressure you’re feeling. They haven’t stood over a 10-footer to win a tournament and then make it or miss it and then lose in a playoff. They’ve never been there. You have to figure it out; you’ve go to work; you’ve got to get through it. You are all by yourself. Even my dad couldn’t do that. It was all about me, getting me out of that situation. And for Yani, she doesn’t know how to do that. Her parents don’t know a lot about golf, so they asked her questions, ‘Why aren’t you playing well?’ She told me she’s trying her best, but then she sees the press and they ask her more questions. It’s a chain reaction to failure because you have to get out of it all by yourself. The next year I came back and I didn’t win as much, but I played well and I had players like these players beating me. And that’s what it’s all about, playing the way you know you can play. And Yani’s not getting that anymore, and it’s just because of all the negative stuff that’s surrounding her. And she cares. You’ve got to almost not care when you’re struggling what people say, especially negatively because it’s all about you. Nobody can get you out of it.
Daniel: Also when you were on your streak, your rookie year when you came out and won five tournaments in a row – all of us can speak to this – when you get on a streak and you’re playing really well, you have so much confidence. You tee it up, and you don’t think anyone in that field can beat you. I’m sure all of you would say at some point in time you teed it up and said, ‘Nobody is beating me this week. I’m playing that good.’ When someone gets on a streak like that, it’s easy to say, They’re playing so well, they’re going to play like this forever. The streak lasts a certain amount of time and then something breaks that confidence just enough where, all of a sudden when people see your name on the leaderboard, they’re not scared of you anymore. For a while, Yani had that.
Lopez: I think what’s hard too, Beth, is that when Yani was playing really well, there weren’t a lot of golf tournaments. For us, when I was plying really well, I knew my limits. It was usually three weeks in a row. I can be playing well that third week and people will say, ‘Why don’t you keep playing?’ Because I’m tired and I’m gonna play myself right into bad golf. So when I took off after three weeks, I needed that to recharge and then I came right back out and played right the same way. Sometimes players are playing so much that they don’t have time to be normal, to rest their minds. All the stuff we have to do – signing autographs, going to parties, entertaining. You’ve got to rest. I think Annika was one she didn’t believe she could walk away and get it back. She felt like she had to keep playing to stay in that kind of shape. I don’t think you should do that as a player. You should rest. Play, find your limit, then take off a week. But because they didn’t have that many tournaments, you play yourself into bad habits, you get tired you’re not swinging the club right anymore and then you get into all this negative stuff again because you couldn’t rest.
Carner: To win, you get on such an up. The hardest thing for me was to come down Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then start gearing up for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday so you could really put the pressure on and shoot the low rounds. That was the hardest thing. When (husband) Don and I traveled in the travel trailer, it was ideal because you’re sitting in the car driving to the next tournament. You can’t swing a club at all. What happens is, you are sitting there and you’re mentally talking golf every now and then because you’re driving six or eight hours anyway. Every so often you talk golf, and by the time I got to the next tournament I knew what I needed to work on.
Stephenson: Traveling was a little easier back then. We had a tough lifestyle. It was very hard to have a normal life, a family and relationships. But we had 40 tournaments a year, and you could pick and choose. You could play three and take a couple off. Now if they don’t play the weeks that are available, they get behind on the money list. They can’t afford to take any time off. The travel nowadays, we could got get the rental car and leave your luggage. So much of it is international that, like you said, they’re exhausted.
Bradley: We used to finish on Sunday night, get into our rental car or transportation and we’d drive right to the front and we’d say to the sky cap, ‘Here’s $30; get me and my luggage to the gate.’ And then they would hand put it on. We could get right to the minute before the door shut. Now you have to spend all day to get to the airport and get through. Of course this international travel is so difficult. Since 9/11, the security . . . you can’t take anything for granted. Jet lag, we dealt with it, but these kids, they deal with it on a daily basis. Our jet lag was one hour or two hours. . . . These young ladies, they left in September and they’re still not back in the states. Wow, that’s a grind. That really is a grind.
• • •
Golfweek: I spoke with Lorena (Ochoa) last week. She just had her baby, Julia. I asked her, ‘Do you think that it’s possible for a player to be No. 1 and have a family?’ She said, ‘No. Impossible to be a mom and be the No. 1 player.’ Juli Inkster . . .
Bradley: I think Nancy can beg to differ.
Golfweek: So the question is for Nancy. Given today’s global schedule, given the demands of travel and the depth of the tour, do you think it’s possible?
Lopez: It would be tough. It was tough for me to see Annika and Lorena leave. Because to me they were very competitive and still having children, I think they should’ve played until their children at least went to school. I remember picking on Annika, saying, ‘Why did you quit?’ She said she had accomplished everything she could. I said, ‘I want you to see if you can win now that you’ve had a baby.’ Because you change, internally as a mother. After I had Ashley (in 1983), I felt kind of soft, like I didn’t have that killer instinct anymore.
Stephenson: Oh, I don’t know ... (laughs)
Lopez: I felt it right from the very beginning.
Daniel: Did Ashley take it from you?
Lopez: Yes, she did. You all know Ashley. When I first had her, I thought first of all, I was going to retire. I was young. But I thought there’s no way I can do this. I’m going to have to quit golf once I have a baby. But that desire to play was still there. So I packed Ashley up and took her with me. And then I had Erinn two years later, and I packed her up and took her with me, too. But it completed me. I wanted to have children, but I wanted to play golf. I was lucky enough that I had made enough money – we didn’t have Smuckers daycare then – so I had to have somebody take care of my child so that I could relax on the golf course. That’s why I had a full-time nanny with me. We didn’t have daycare. So the poor moms who couldn’t afford to have a full-time nanny had to wonder, ‘Who is taking care of my child?’ We’d get to a golf course and volunteers would say we know someone who could babysit, but we didn’t know them. So for women to be able to concentrate and focus totally on what they’re doing knowing their baby is with someone they don’t know . . . that’s tough to do. But with Smuckers daycare, they can do that. I always believed in my golf career that when I was inside the ropes, the only thing I could do was play golf. So whatever was happening outside with husbands or with children, I didn’t think about that. I knew I was inside the ropes and I focused. God gave me a little bit of talent in that department. When I was with my kids, I was going to be the best mom I could be. When I was with my husband, the best wife. But it was all about golf when I was inside those ropes. I was able to juggle it, fortunately, but when you’re younger, I think you could do that, too. But I loved playing golf, loved competing. That’s why when Annika and Lorena left, I couldn’t understand it. It was really hard for me, as competitive as they were, to just leave the game. . . . The tour really needed them. I really hated it that they left because we needed them to stay out on the tour a little bit longer, even though they were having children.
Stephenson: I keep talking about the personalities, and they were personalities that people knew. Because you have to have people that you recognize to have the fan base, to have them support you.
Lopez: Annika and Lorena were those two players.
Stephenson: It just seems like it’s a business and they don’t love golf like we love golf. I don’t love social golf, but I love to compete, so I’ll work so hard just to go play to compete. We loved everything to do with golf. It’s in our blood, and we will truly will do whatever it takes because we love it.
Lopez: Traveling internationally with children was really tough. I took Ashley when she was little, but I missed Halloween every year I had to be in Japan. I hated that. There were times I didn’t go to Japan so I could be at home.
Daniel: But we had so much fun in Japan!
Stephenson: I didn’t miss Halloween. I dressed up and knocked on everyone’s door asking for candy and they gave me dried fish. I’m like, What’s this?
Bradley: Who dressed in the toga?
Daniel: Jan. Jan was the toga.
Stephenson: And then I came dressed as an angel the next year and everybody goes, ‘Take that off!’
• • •
Golfweek: Two more questions. I have to ask about Lydia Ko. Your opinions on Lydia and what potential hurdles she could face. Your advice for coming out on the tour at 16, having already won twice, obviously a history maker already at such a young age. What are you thoughts on her longevity?
Carner: She’ll make it.
Stephenson: She seems to have what it takes, even though she’s young. I don’t want to put too much pressure on Michelle Wie, but she didn’t go through the ranks of learning what it takes to win. She did basically exhibitions and then suddenly got tabbed to compete. Lydia has gone through the ranks; she’s just done it at such a young age. She knows what it takes to win, and she’s been in those positions where she is nervous and had to be in the last few groups. She’s definitely an amazing ability.
Bradley: I agree. I think she has what it takes. I just hope and pray she stays healthy and injury-free. I think she’s still growing a little bit, and that’s the only thing that I think would set her back: an illness or an injury. You just hope and pray that does not happen. That old cliche, she’s really mature above her years. It’s just amazing. I just marvel at how these young women – these young girls – develop and become so good at such a young age. I just started tournament golf at 15. Here this young lady has won two professional events. It’s just incredible. It’s just wonderful to see. I’m very happy for her, and I hope her mom and dad keep a close eye. That’s a talent you don’t want anything to happen to.
Lopez: I think when you look at tennis and all those young people who have been burned out by it, when I heard she got on the tour I was a little disappointed, only because I look at my daughters at 16, how I was at 16. I don’t care how she plays on the golf course, she’s got a 16-year-old mind. She’s still a child. And for her to deal with the pressure. Yeah, she’s great, and I think that’s super. But somehow, I guess it’s the mother in me that wants to protect her from the pressure of what’s going to be on her plate for the rest of her life now. She can’t be 16 anymore. She can’t be 17 or 18 the way I was, when I think about what I did during that time and then turning professional. And how I had to step into some big shoes because I started winning early and having to answer questions that probably at that age – 19, 20 that I was – I was able to handle it, but just remembering the pressure that I felt. I wish her the best because I think she’ll be great for the tour. I just hope that whoever is handling her will still let her be a 16-year-old. Let her play golf with the maturity that she can, but when she goes home let her play with her dolls or whatever. Let her go to movies and let her eat candy. Just let her be a young person.
Daniel: I kind of agree with Nancy. I worry about the fact that she has turned pro at age 16. I understand it because financially it is so expensive to play amateur golf. But here’s a girl that wants to go to college. So she’s going to follow a little bit in the footsteps of Michelle Wie by being a professional and also going to college. And that’s a lot on her plate, and the better she plays, the more expectations will be on her shoulders and the more she will be in demand by people and by the tour and everything else. I wish her the best because I don’t know Lydia very well, but from what I can see she handles herself extremely well. She definitely knows how to play the game and handle herself. But she’s 16 years old.
Stephenson: She’s not going to have a childhood.
Carner: To me it’s all in what her agent makes her do. Because at 16, you could be swayed to do a lot more than you should be doing. And that’s what Michelle Wie ran into. They had her doing all this other stuff and convinced her not to join the LPGA. She could make more money without joining. Get show-up money, which the agent got a whole lot more. But I think – at least I hope – she has someone who will let her do what Nancy is talking about. Let her be a 16-year-old. She hasn’t had a slump in golf. I never had one in my life, and the minute I turned pro I went right down the tubes. I mean it was awful. And what it was was I went from free-wheeling it – as an amateur you can hit it out bounds and still tie the hole; it was all match play – then what happens is you finally get in some kind of a slump, and how do I get out of it? You have to do what Nancy says. You have to work it out yourself. It took me a while to get out of that slump, and I’m sure all of us at one point in our career, luckily I didn’t go through a lot of them, but the first one is always awful.
Daniel: Amateur golf also has built-in off time in your schedule. Professional golf does not. Her scheduling, like JoAnne says, is going to be very important to her longevity.
• • •
Golfweek: Last question. For the LPGA to thrive, the domestic schedule has to be good, has to be strong. What advice would you give to young Americans? What are your words of wisdom to boost American golf right now and get more winners, more stars?
Carner: I think the young players that are turning pro right now are really coming into their own, and I think they’re hungry enough to really start to win and no longer fear the great players from Korea and Japan and Europe, and realize that as Americans they can really go out and win, too. I think it’s coming, and from what I’ve seen of some of the young ones, it’s going to be a great tour.
Daniel: I think the schedule has gotten so much better domestically. (LPGA commissioner) Mike Whan has done a very good job of that in a tough economy. We’re going to see even more domestic events next year. I don’t know, I just think the tour needs to do a better job of introducing its players to the general public. Even the American players, people just don’t know them very well. There has to be a better way of getting recognition of these players through the tour.
Bradley: I know the game has become global, and that’s wonderful. We want to grow the game and stretch it out. But I do think we should still, when we’re in the states, concentrate on letting USA know our players. They want us to know all of the players, which I get, but I think we need the tour to also get back to concentrating on getting the American players out there here on our home turf. I know it’s global, and I’m happy that it’s global and it’s fun to watch these new countries come and be involved, because in our day it was just Canada we had a couple, Jan. . . .
Stephenson: When I came on tour, it was Sally Little and myself, Chako (Higushi), and then Ayako (Okamoto) and Sandra Post. That was it. Everybody else was all American.
Bradley: And they were fighting for their recognition. Now we need to fight a little bit more for our young American players to have their recognition up there again.
Stephenson: I always thought it should have been . . . and I know I got in a little trouble, but I always thought it should be a 50-50 tour: fifty Americans and then 50 international. It is the host country; it’s all their money; it’s all their sponsors. My concern is that if you’re a young American girl, 16 years old, you’re gonna have homework, you’re gonna have boyfriends, you’re gonna have school as well as everything else, whereas a lot of the international players, they’re turning pro at 16 and all they do is golf. So they’re not having anything else in their life. How does an American girl compete with that? It’s very difficult.
Bradley: They pluck ’em early now in some of these foreign countries and they focus all their energy, all their time, their hands are bleeding. And our girls, we want them to be well-rounded. We want them to experience a lot of things. But the sacrifice to be great is, you’ve got to give up some of this stuff and concentrate on making the putts.
Stephenson: None of us probably had a normal childhood.
Lopez: I think we probably always wanted to play and win. Since I can remember, I wanted to play and win. There was desire. I remember being in high school and telling my boyfriend I’m going to go practice, and he was like, Why? Because I want to win! And so he broke up with me because I wanted to play golf and not hang out with him. But I had a path that I was following that I wanted to do, and we need to get our young players on that path. Golf is a great game . . . but how do you get them to focus on it being a career? That’s the big thing for American players.
Bradley: Is it, do I want to win? Or, do I want another patch on my sleeve?
Daniel: Or, do I want to make enough money where I can go on a shopping spree?
Carner: I can remember walking into the locker room, and here’s four girls playing bridge. OK, now I have nothing against that. They’re telling me it’s great and you should learn it. I said I know a little about it but not much. And, I’m saying, when did you practice? We played early and then we practiced.
Stephenson: There’s still four hours of daylight. . . .
Carner: They would play bridge every afternoon in the locker room. I wanted to say, how many tournaments have you won? Zero? Oh.
Lopez: We want those American players to win, and there’s nothing wrong with saying that because when I went to Korea, they didn’t care if Nancy Lopez won. The wanted Se Ri Pak to win. Every place we are, if you’re in the United States, if you’re in Australia . . . they want their players to win. So there’s nothing wrong with saying we want American players to win. That’s just the way it is. That’s just normal. That’s what you should feel. You should see red, white and blue in the United States. When you go to other countries, they’re always rooting for their players. I just know there’s days I watch the LPGA tour and I wish I could play again because I’m going to go out there and fight as hard as I can to win a tournament. It makes me crazy. I want to see our players winning. I love that it’s a world tour because those players are super fantastic. They’re good people. They work hard. I have my friends that say they turn off LPGA golf when they see all these other players. I said, Don’t do that. Please support us. They play great golf. They’re good people. You don’t understand their backgrounds. They play golf because they really have to; that is their life. So give them some credit. Watch us, because we need you to.
That’s how I feel about it.
Stephenson: They can just come watch the Legends Tour because we’re all still personalities.
Daniel: The personalities have probably gotten better.
Lopez: Everybody is a lot nicer than they used to be.
Carner: What’s Jan say? ‘Oh, I can’t putt.’
Bradley: I can’t putt.
Daniel: Jan made the winning putt at the Handa Cup.
Bradley: Oh, my goodness. You made the winning putt?
Stephenson: And you’re a better putter now than you were.
Daniel: Oh, yeah, I am.
Stephenson: If you had that putter, then you would’ve won even more. God, I’m glad you didn’t have that putter.
Lopez: When you watch (Daniel) swing, I want her swing. I want to be that tall and have that swing. She still can hit it out there.
Jan: It’s gorgeous:
Golfweek: Thank you so much, ladies. It has been a blast. We appreciate it.
Carner: That’s a wrap.