Amy Alcott is a secure, 15-year veteran of the LPGA tour. With 27 career victories, she needs only three more to be admitted to the Hall of Fame of women’s golf.
However, she wouldn’t recommend to any aspiring pro golfer the path she has chosen.
“I joined the tour at 18, right out of Palisades High School,” Alcott said. “Who does that nowadays? I was this feisty, cocky kid who had won the California state amateur, the U.S. Junior Championship and some 100 junior tournaments in Los Angeles.
“I thought I could take on the world and play against the JoAnne Carners and the Kathy Whitworths without a college education and the maturity that goes with it. I was 18 going on 40.”
In most scenarios, the brash, cocky, young player would get a rude awakening on the tour, humbled and put in her place.
Alcott, now 33, had a different script.
“The only scholarship offer I had out of high school was to go to Dartmouth and play on the men’s golf team,” she said. “But I didn’t consider it. Why should I be sitting in class when I could be shooting 68s, or 69s?
“My teacher, Walter Keller, called me a race horse. So I figured I should go out and see how good I could be.
“And I won right out of the box.”
As the defending champion of the $500,000 Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament that begins today at Mission Hills Country Club, the outgoing Alcott has few regrets when she reflects on her career.
Nonetheless, she recalled that her immediate success on the tour had some drawbacks.
“I did it, but I’m not saying I didn’t pay the price,” Alcott said. “Here I was taking money away from people when I was 18, 19 and 20 years old.
“I was constantly asked year after year, ‘Aren’t you 22 yet?’ The other players were friendly, but I didn’t make a lot of friends.”
Once considered arrogant, Alcott laughed and said, “It’s called confidence now.”
Although she is off to a slow start this year with $17,302 earned through five events, Alcott doesn’t figure to remain in a slump because that’s not her established style.
“I feel I’m getting back on track,” said Alcott, who had four rounds of 72s, one under par, last week at Phoenix, tying for sixth.
“I try to be consistent, and people marvel at my record of consistency above all else,” she said, “and that makes me feel good, especially in a sport like golf, which is the most difficult game of all to be consistent.
“I’ve had some worse years than others, but to be here for 15 years takes a lot of mental discipline, hard work and control. You’ve got to be willing to put the time in even when you don’t want to do it.”
Alcott is goal-oriented and her immediate objective is the LPGA Hall of Fame.
There are only 11 members, the latest being Nancy Lopez, who was admitted in 1987.
“Our criteria for the Hall of Fame is the toughest of all sports,” Alcott said. “You have to win 35 tournaments before you can be voted in, or 30 events if you win three separate majors.”
The Dinah Shore tournament is regarded as a major, and Alcott would like to be the first pro to win the tournament three times. Her first victory came in 1983 and she repeated last year.
Alcott will be challenging a formidable field. In addition to herself, 11 former winners of the tournament will be competing.
With the success of the Senior Tour and television coverage of it and the established PGA Tour, the LPGA tour is striving, some say struggling, for its own identity.
Alcott is optimistic that the tour’s best days are ahead.
“The players are more enthusiastic than they’ve ever been. They’re the hardest working group of people I know,” Alcott said, “and the new commissioner, Bill Blue has created a lot of enthusiasm and he has a lot of vision.”
However, Alcott recognizes that the tour needs more exposure.
“The big key is more TV,” she said. “We have a lot of money supporting our tour, but we have to get on the tube more often. The men’s tour is on every week.
“I get stopped in airports every week by people saying, ‘Why aren’t you on TV more, why aren’t you in the golf magazines more?’ There is a public out there starved for it (women’s golf).
“However, it’s a baseball, basketball and football society, and if it’s not that then the other men’s sports come first. Then you have women’s sports.”
Alcott has brought some pizazz to women’s golf with her freewheeling opinions and upbeat attitude.
“You have to be yourself,” she said. “You can be one person off the course and another one on it. Off the course, I’m talkative and outspoken. I enjoy people. I want to live life and not just exist. I wasn’t born to be a clone.”
Alcott has far-ranging interests even to the extent that she’s a part-time cook at a bakery in Westwood.
“That’s my little side job,” she said. “I make sandwiches, bake and decorate cakes. There was a time when I didn’t want to hit another ball, or see another golf club.
“So I got into the habit of going into the bakery a couple of times a week and slinging hash until people recognized me and my cover was broken.
“Believe me, getting five tuna sandwiches just right is as difficult as making a five-foot putt for $50,000.”
Although Alcott hasn’t had a college education, she is helping others to get one.
“Four years ago, I established the Amy Alcott golf scholarship at UCLA,” she said of the $50,000 endowment. “I’m the assistant coach and we have educated four girls. I’m proud of that.”
“I also want to get involved in golf course architecture. I have some opportunities to start on some projects in the next couple of years. That’s what I really want to do.
“On paper I’ve already designed about 120 different golf holes. Jack Nicklaus designs courses, but there aren’t many women doing it. I have one main dream, but I can’t tell you what it is now except that it would be a different type of golf course.”
Another Amy Alcott will soon be making tracks of a different kind.
She has a namesake thoroughbred that is supposed to make its racing debut in June.
“Some friends of mine who own the Old English Rancho in Chino saw me win the Dinah Shore tournament here last year and they said, ‘There is no one better coming down the stretch than Amy,’ so they named a horse after me,” Alcott said.
Alcott would like to come down the stretch again in defense of her title. When she won here last year, she and her caddy jumped into a lake near the 18th green.
Will she do it again if she wins?
“I’ll definitely jump into the water,” Alcott said. “I might even do cartwheels. I’d be the only one to win it three times. That would be exciting.”
The winner’s share for the tournament is $80,000. . . . The field of 119 is the largest ever for the tournament. . . . Nancy Lopez, who had a limited schedule last year because of family commitments, is planning on playing a full schedule. Her husband, Ray Knight, a former major league baseball player, is retired and he travels with Lopez along with their two children. He is also Nancy’s caddy.