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April 3, 2009

Amy Alcott


DANA GROSSRHODE: Everybody at Mission Hills knows what you've done in golf and now you've taken the next step and written your book, Leaderboard. I guess talk about that process that happened and how excited you are about having your book published.
AMY ALCOTT: Well, this is the first time in 33 years that I am not playing in this tournament. I started here when I was 18, so there's a little bit of melancholy, I guess that's a good word to describe. I go out to the greens and still feel like I should be there. That aspect of your career never goes away. I guess you always set yourself up for a come back.
As I have kind of slowly stepped away from the LPGA Tour playing actively, one of the things I wanted to do was kind of get on the side of the sport where you guys are, where I was always being asked constantly all the questions, and I wanted to reverse roles. I think Jim Nantz who wrote the forward in the book typifies that, and it's a complete role reversal where I took people that I either knew already and wanted to know better; or, I didn't know them at all in the case of Steve Cross from 60 Minutes. Several of these people I didn't know and I wanted to know them and I wanted to know how golf really intersected with their life.
I knew how the experience was for me, to develop into a Hall of Fame golfer and whether I ever achieved these dreams for not, but what I wanted to do was reverse roles and talk to these people about why they started playing the game, what was the thing that gravitated them to golf. And I learned a lot from this book. All of the interviews, all of the vignettes are all different and interesting. Some are with players from the LPGA and others with Ben Crenshaw, who I admired.
So I wanted to do Ben because we had similar experiences in that we had teaches who were really one teacher all of our lives. My mind was Walter Keller from here, and his was Harvey Penick, and to talk to him a little bit about his Masters win. In '91, there were parallels; for example, my vignette with Ben was a lot of parallels. He won the biggest tournament of his life after Harvey Penick died. I won the largest tournament of my life in '91, the Kraft, by nine shots here and set a tournament record and all of that, after my mother had died.
I say in the book, it's the most -- we ever played with. It's like something else is driving you and you're the marionette pulling all of the strings. These are the kind of questions that are always broached in a press room, but you don't necessarily get that intimacy that you have between two players being able to sit down at a dinner with a question I have for Ben, for example.
And so he wrote me, he actually left me a voicemail and told me how moved he was by this. It actually brought me closer with him since I felt like I always had this thought, you know, what was he thinking when Harvey died or my mother died; did he have the same experience that I did, like someone else was pulling all of the strings.
He's just one of the stories in here. There's a story of addiction in here because in many cases for several of the people I interviewed, one addiction was replaced for another. In the case of Dennis Hopper, golf really saved his life.
Annika was a very interesting interview. Her choices for the question that I sent, if you could pick a dream foursome to play with, I think was kind of an interesting -- her answers were very interesting and indicative of kind of where she was in her life had she picked three different people that she would like to play in a foursome with that had nothing to do with the LPGA. It told you a lot about her.
In the case of President Bill Clinton, I had the pleasure of playing golf with him three times while he was in office, and once when he was out of office, and he was the one that said, ‘Everybody has got a book inside of them. Just write what you want to write.’ So he was a big inspiration. I interviewed him with Don Wade in his office in Harlem, and he only had 40 minutes, and it turned into two hours with him. He ended up having to be at the United Nations and he was late because all he wanted to do was talk about golf.
I found the book interesting writing this. I found the book interesting to write about, some of the people's fathers started them in golf, grandfathers and in several cases, their mothers. But it's mostly how the experience of the game, of all of these 27 people, how much the game meant to them and as Tom Warner, the owner of the Red Sox said, golf is poetic.
That's what drove me to kind of do a role reversal and become an author. I've done two other books, Winning At Golf With Amy Alcott and another one, more of a thing where I can do the interviewing.

Q. How did you approach people?
AMY ALCOTT: I had to do all of this on my own, and in many cases, living in Los Angeles, you know, my nickname on the Tour has always been Hollywood. So it gave me -- since I lived in L.A. and I knew the people around different country clubs, it gave me access to them. But when you tell people you are writing a book, they don't really necessarily want to be interviewed for it.
In the case of Jack Nicholson, I went to his house and I played golf with him before. I always remember him saying, "Kid, I'll gamble with you anything you want to gamble for but I'm not going to pay."
So I know his accountant and I called him up and I said, "Do you think Jack would do an interview with me?"
And he hits balls off his back patio down into this ravine and he said, "How is your book going to be different than all of the other 5,000?" It wasn't a warm, fuzzy feeling getting started with Jack. But he's a very interesting guy. As I told you in here, he was going to be a sports writer himself.
All of these things, some of them were difficult to get access to, but the most difficult was trying to pin a few of the players down out here. I wanted to talk to Karrie Webb, because she kind of reinvented her golf. Everybody's golf is different. Lorena, I talk about her a little bit about how I believe she's the real deal and she does so much for charity and she has used her charity as a conduit for doing greater things.
All of the people -- a lot of these people were tough to get to and a lot of the people said, gosh, I would love to do it.
It made me look at the game differently, some of the comments people make. I think for example, in the case of my friend, Tom Warner, who was a very fine writer before he actually became an owner of a Major League Baseball team, he's a real intellectual. He's a real neat guy. He plays at Riviera where I play. We have had some interesting conversations.
But he looked at me and he says: Amy, golf and baseball are similar in that people -- you start on the first tee and you hit the ball down the fairway, hopefully, and then you knock it on the green and then you go to the second hole, and then you play the ninth hole and the 13th hole, and the 15th hole, then you go to the 18th hole and it's like you've ran the bases.
Then he says, "You've come home. You're always coming home." He says, "Don't you find that beautiful and poetic?" He comes across as a machismo kind of guy but he looked at golf very spiritually as he looked at baseball. You start someplace and then you come home. I liked his answer.
I also was very moved by Annika's answer, which you'll have to look at as to her ideal foursome. I think Bill Clinton is always interesting because I talk in here a little bit about how when I shot 29 with him and it got into the news pages as Amy Alcott shot 29 and I told a friend of mine, he gave me every putt within eight feet. Well, that sounds like President Clinton; I said, well, you look at it like he likes to see people do well. And that was kind of what I thought.
I did do a brief interview with Gerald Ford, and rally though I never got to finish it unfortunately, having played in the Betty Ford tournament many years, I didn't get to finish that with the President. But I do have a funny story about him, though. I ran into him in Ralph's market and I said, "Mr. President, how is your golf game"?
He says, "Well, I'm doing better. We need to get paired together in Betty's tournament again. We need to get paired."
I said, "Well, you're really playing better? Are you taking some lessons?"
"No, I'm not taking lessons. I'm just playing better."
"Well what do you think you're doing, Mr. President"?
He says, "I don't know. I'm just hitting fewer people." I wish I could have finished the interview so I could have included that little story in the book. But anyway.

Q. What do you think of Phil's chances for winning the Masters?
AMY ALCOTT: I played golf with Phil. As you know, we are friends. I played golf with him before the Tour started. We carried our bags in the rain and I looked at him and he looked at me and says, "Isn't this fun? Doesn't this remind you of junior golf?" He said, "Yeah, this is more fun than playing the Tour."
Of course, I saw him in L.A., and there's a very interesting story that happened there, that when he shot 62, he was just really bringing his game together. I think that, you know, he's coming into these events with a high level of confidence that maybe he didn't have at the beginning of the condition. Although I'm not Butch Harmon or Dave Pelz, I think I'm a good friend.
I said after watching him win at Doral, he played with total confidence, and he took what he had done at the Northern Trust and really stepped it up and was putting well. Like all golfers, like we all do, if you don't get in your own way, I think his chances are very good.
I always tell people what's interesting about my relationship with Phil, you look at players of another generation like Sam Snead or Ben Hogan, I can't imagine calling up Patty Berg and saying: Would you come to Riviera and help me read the greens before the tournament. I think he's a different guy. He likes information. I think that he really listens to what I say and he likes to take it all in. He likes the team effect. He's good enough. He really doesn't need anyone. He could do it all on his own. But I find that kind of a different kind of golfer that would call up a top Hall of Fame woman player and say, will you give me your viewpoint on the greens. I think that boded well for our respect for each other, because I think he is a neat guy.

Q. How does the LPGA now compare to when you started?
AMY ALCOTT: It's definitely very international. It's inspiring in many ways, the vibrancy of some of these -- of all the young players. I mean, I'm sure the average age would be in the low 20s out here of players.
It's a lot different than my era with Beth and Betsy and myself and Nancy, and before us, Paula and Stacy and players of that genre. It's different. It's a business now. Not that it wasn't then, but I think that this new age of the Tour is definitely international in scope. You don't have to look around far to see that, and I think, you know, it's a big business. But I'm glad that my big years were -- people say, don't you wish you were out there playing, because there's so much money out there? And there's an aspect to it; I had my time.
I shot 68 last week. The golf hasn't left me. It's the week-to-week --

Q. Where was that?
AMY ALCOTT: I shot it in Los Angeles at Bel Air Country Club. I still shoot good scores regularly. I can still play. But it's the thought of showing up here on any given week and living the life. To do this well, go talk to Se Ri or Lorena or anyone, they will tell you, you have to eat, breathe and sleep this life to be at the top level.
You know, after 30-something years, that's kind of been the priority difference. You have to navigate. And going into -- I don't think you ever retire from golf. It's been very difficult, because this is what I know and I love. So I'm having to kind of navigate a different side of my life to figure out what's next. And I'm enjoying it. I've done a couple of golf courses in North Carolina. I've written this book. I do some consulting to people who want to get more involved in doing events. I do corporate golf outings.
But it's different than putting the peg on the first tee and hearing the coach call your name on the first tee saying, you know, three-time winner, eight three, '88, '91, Kraft Nabisco. I miss that feeling. I miss that.
You know, I told you, maybe I'm setting myself for a comeback I don't even know about. People ask me all the time what I think about Annika. In my mind, she'll be back. The game has that hold on you.
DANA GROSS-RHODE: Thank you very much and congratulations.

End of FastScripts

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