Families Follow Tour--Par for the Course

As wind-whipped rain and hail pelted the Rancho La Costa golf course last Sunday--interrupting and ultimately shortening the 36th annual MONY Tournament of Champions--Shirley Casper and Karen Mowray dried out in the clubhouse.

They had sloshed along the marshy fairways for hours with their husbands, who had been playing in the seniors event, and . . . well, glamorous, they weren't.

Meanwhile, Shannon Pavin and a few other spouses waited inside a warm restaurant for breakfast.

Soon, they were joined by Shannon's husband, professional golfer Corey Pavin, who had managed to get in five holes before the first of several postponements during the on-again, off-again competition.

Pavin removed some wet garments, shook his head disconsolately and took a seat next to his wife.

The day before, he was observed chasing his rambunctious 19-month-old son, Ryan, through another dining room, but the youngster was elsewhere at the moment.

Otherwise, he might have been in his mother's lap when a busboy spilled a cup of hot coffee on Shannon Pavin's arm.

Nothing Unusual

"Ah," Shannon said, shrugging off the minor burn with an exaggerated laugh, "life on the tour."

Rainstorms and spilled coffee are a small part of the problems families of golfers encounter week after week as they follow the pro golf circuit.

But at La Costa, "life on the tour" is supposed to be different. It's one of the most luxurious tour stops and usually it's strictly party time--although dampened a bit this year by the storm.

"It's definitely a vacation for the wives," said Linda Watson, whose husband, Tom Watson, won $616,351 last year.

"This morning I was at two exercise classes and worked out on the treadmill for an hour. And massages, facials, pedicures, manicures, just about anything you want. They do spoil us."

For the golfers and their families, it's a week of free rooms, meals, tennis, spa, beauty parlor, et al, and even the sport's young millionaires lap it up.

Curtis Strange, who will be 33 on Saturday, was the Professional Golf Assn.'s top money winner last year with $925,941, which boosted his career earnings to more than $3 million. But his wife, Sarah, had hoped merely for a tour victory to qualify for the prestigious T of C.

"This is the tournament that when your husband wins, you say, 'Ah! La Costa!' " Sarah Strange said. "You don't even ask how much money was that or that gets me here or that gets me there. We never are treated quite like this (anywhere else)."

Mother of two sons, 5 and 2 1/2, she left her boys home.

"Flat out," she said with a laugh, "this is my week."

However, she flew back to her home in Virginia on Sunday and planned to bring the children to Palm Springs this weekend to see their father play in the Bob Hope Classic, then take them to Phoenix for the following tournament.

"Phoenix is a great week for children," she said. "The child care they have available is nice. The zoo is wonderful. . . . I usually don't see much of the golf course. . . ."

Following Phoenix, the pros play at Pebble Beach, Hawaii, La Jolla and Los Angeles before heading to Florida the first week of March.

A glamorous life?

"I didn't ever think it was glamorous," said Linda Watson, who has a daughter, 8, and a son, 5. "I love the tour. It's been wonderful for us, but there have been a lot of sacrifices.

"Last year I was away from Tom four weeks in a row, the kids five weeks in a row. I don't think there's much glamour in that. . . . Even a traveling salesman gets to see his children more often than that. I think the biggest sacrifice in the world is not being with your family."

Laundromats seem to dominate conversations about tour life, and Linda Watson has plenty to say on the subject. She's been searching for them for years in cities all over the country.

"I never send things out," she said. "I like to know how they're cleaned. Maybe I'm just crazy. I like to know that I put them in and that I use my special detergent. . . . I want them done the way I want them done. It's easier to do it myself."

Linda Miller, wife of veteran pro Johnny Miller, usually brings along domestic help with her brood of six, who range in age from 7 to 17. The kids have been traipsing around the country in their dad's footsteps all their lives.

Teen-age Problems

"With teen-agers, there are different problems," Linda said without elaborating. "They're normal teen-agers--not perfect."

With 11 children (six adopted), Shirley Casper has been visiting Laundromats along the tour for almost two decades.

A few years ago, when Billy Casper was competing in a seniors event in Utah, the family rented a large house for the week. "Everybody came," Shirley said, "except our daughter who lives in northern California. . . . All together (with grandchildren) there were 17 of us."

Although most of the younger wives say their lives are far from glamorous, Shirley disagrees.

"Yes, there's a glamorous side to our life," she said, "because when you're playing well and you're winning, there's a certain thing that goes with it that's glamorous. They want you here and they want you there and you get to travel and go internationally. . . ."

She recalled two White House invitations the Caspers accepted, from Presidents Nixon and Carter, and one they declined, from President Reagan.

"Bill had a commitment he couldn't get out of," Shirley said rather matter-of-factly of the last White House invitation. "It had been scheduled and he had been paid and he had to go."

Other invitations the Caspers did not decline have included several from King Hussein of Morocco, who enjoys golf and has played often with Billy.

"We've had a lot of neat experiences," Shirley added, "but we still have the Laundromats and when you have a lot of children and you're in one hotel room, that's not great.

"But I love my life. I love the balance of being at home and being on tour and I love to travel. I can pack a suitcase in 15 minutes."

Julie Crenshaw packed nine suitcases for La Costa, plus, of course, the other "necessities"--portable crib, playpen, stroller, car seat. . . .

"We're staying eight weeks this time," she explained, "for the whole West Coast tour.

The 23-year-old mother--wife of 36-year-old Ben Crenshaw--had a sleepless night during play last week when her 3-month-old baby, Katherine Vail, was suffering from an earache.

The baby would have spent the week with her maternal grandparents, who live in Laguna Niguel, Julie said, "if I weren't breast feeding."

Babies seem to be proliferating on tour these days, according to Julie, who said 26 were born on the pro tour in 1986, about a dozen last year, "and seven are due already this year. All my friends have babies. I couldn't wait to have one."

Peni Wadkins, a former Delta Airlines flight attendant who met Lanny Wadkins on a flight and married him in 1978, waited nine years to have a baby--the last seven trying desperately to overcome long odds against success. Finally, on the brink of adopting a child, Peni became pregnant. Travis was born 4 1/2 months ago.

"We feel like he was a gift from God," she said, "because we had to go through surgical procedures . . . to have this baby."

The couple have hired a young woman to accompany them on the road and help care for Travis.

"When he gets older, about 3," Peni said, "I'll probably use the nurseries."

Many golf clubs are providing nurseries now, the women say, some better equipped and better staffed than others.

"The Colonial tournament in Fort Worth (Tex.) was the originator of nurseries," Shirley Casper said. "In Augusta (Ga.), there used to be preschools you could take your children to, and several places have those. Now, they have supervised nurseries. They have them down to a science."

A Mother-to-Be

Among this year's mothers-to-be is Sheri Pate, who met 26-year-old Steve Pate at UCLA, married him in 1984 and has been living happily ever after in a world of growing luxury.

As a pro, Pate earned $89,358 in 1985, $176,100 in 1986, $335,728 in 1987 and this year already has pocketed the first top prize of the new season--$90,000 in the rain-shortened MONY Tournament of Champions.

Experienced in business management and bookkeeping, Sheri Pate keeps busy logging a lot of fat numbers in the family ledger.

"Because Steve has been so successful," she said, choosing her words delicately, "we bought and sold a condo already, and bought our house (in Wood Ranch) and a condo last year in Florida. So, there's a lot of paper work that Steve has nothing to do with, which I like."

Sheri's baby is due March 3, about the time her husband will be moving on to the Florida tour. "I'll stay home," she said, "but when the baby comes I hope to travel."

Flying made her ill the first few months of her pregnancy, she said, but she continued, nonetheless.

Iwalani Rodriguez, recalled her tragic experience a number of years ago--two miscarriages within five months while traveling with her husband, the charismatic Puerto Rican veteran, Chi Chi Rodriguez.

"It must have been the stress, because I'm a strong person," said Iwalani, a former professional Polynesian dancer whose roots are in Hawaii.

Although Iwalani required a hysterectomy after the miscarriages, television golf analyst Dave Marr had a happier ending to a similar story when he was competing on the pro circuit in 1960.

When his wife--pregnant with their first child--arrived to meet him in Portland, Ore., she fell at the airport and was rushed to the hospital.

In a strange city with virtually no one to advise him, Marr suddenly remembered the pediatrician he had played golf with in the pro-amateur event a day earlier.

"He was the only doctor I knew," he recalled. "I called him and he helped with the emergency delivery."

Born 2 1/2 months prematurely, the infant weighed a mere one pound, 13 ounces, Marr said.

"They gave her 48 hours to live."

Not long ago, Marr retold the story at his daughter Elizabeth's wedding, when he toasted the bride and groom.

"No problems," Marr said. "She grew up to be a healthy young woman."

Hardships and suffering on tour are relative, Iwalani Rodriguez contends. For her and her golfing husband, the sudden loss of Rodriguez's mother was, by far, their most traumatic experience.

For Karen Mowray, 38, it was her husband's battle with alcoholism.

Larry Mowray, 51, once known as "king of the mini tours" but now a regular on the seniors' circuit, quit drinking in 1979.

At the time, Karen volunteered to give up alcohol as well, but her husband replied: "No way. My profession is golf. I'm going to be at country clubs with people who drink all the time, and I must learn that just because I'm allergic to this stuff, the rest of the world doesn't have to stop."

"That was the most important thing that has happened in our 15 years of marriage," she added. "I don't know that Larry would be alive today if he hadn't stopped drinking."

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