Diaz, Pepper put past behind them for Solheim Cup

Laura Diaz during the final stage of 2012 LPGA Q-School.

Laura Diaz during the final stage of 2012 LPGA Q-School.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – There was a time when Laura Diaz said she’d never look at Dottie Pepper the same. Would no longer even consider her a friend.

Now, the two will serve alongside each other as assistant captains for the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup team. Credit captain Meg Mallon for keeping things interesting.

“I started laughing,” said Pepper, when asked for her initial reaction to Mallon’s pick.

Pepper cried when she was named Mallon’s assistant in July 2012, and Diaz did the same on Wednesday at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. After Pepper drew sharp criticism from players for an on-air gaffe at the 2007 Solheim Cup, she was seemingly blackballed from the captaincy process. Mallon changed that with last year’s pick. She hammered the point home even further by picking Diaz second.

“I have been slapped in the face with, ‘Life is too short,’ in the last few years,” said Mallon, “and life’s too short.”

The incident occurred in ’07 when a retired Pepper referred to U.S. players as “chokin’ freakin’ dogs” on air Saturday afternoon when she thought the broadcast had gone to commercial break. The comment fired up the U.S. team, which eventually won. Nearly one year later, Diaz was asked at the 2008 Ricoh Women’s British Open if she had ever “tackled” Pepper over the comment.

“No, do you want me to?” Diaz told reporters with a laugh. “It would be my pleasure.”

Diaz didn’t let up from there, saying that a woman she once considered family (Pepper dated Diaz’s brother for several years) had severely crossed the line. The two New Yorkers have known each other since age 10.

“To be honest, I don’t think to this day I will ever in my life do an interview with her,” said Diaz back in ’08.

In 2010, the pair talked a little about Pepper’s regrettable mistake at the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont, but it wasn’t until the 2011 Solheim Cup in Ireland, when Diaz did some TV work alongside Pepper, that the two really hashed things out.

“I mean, we’ve been family for so long, I think that that’s probably why it bothered me the most,” said Diaz in Phoenix. “But now I just see it from a point of view that the passion that came out is the passion that we have for the Solheim Cup.”

A slew of players were on hand for the announcement, including Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis, Jessica Korda, Meaghan Francella and Karrie Webb (who technically isn’t Solheim eligible).

“Meg kind of stepped out on a limb with Dottie,” said Lewis, the U.S. Solheim points leader. “We need to put it behind everybody.”

Diaz has played on four Solheim Cup teams (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007) and carries a 6-6-1 record. Her immediate goal for this year: serve as a playing captain.

The two-time LPGA champion plans to play a full schedule in 2013, which was enticing to both Mallon and Pepper, who felt the need to have someone who was out there every week and in tune with the players. Diaz will need a blowout year to have a chance: She has no Solheim Cup points.

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