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July 1, 2004

Dottie Pepper


RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we're very pleased to have Dottie Pepper with us today. She's been a great champion for many years, and also a great attraction and a great appealing person to spectators. Dottie, I understand you have announcement to make this morning.

DOTTIE PEPPER: Well, I'm going to circulate that later. I wrote it, so I wouldn't have to. Well, first of all I think that it's been a long -- well, I've been here for about three weeks, but I made a decision, I guess it was Monday night that I could not play this week. And I thanked the USGA for the exemption. I know I thought I deserved it, but I thrilled to get it. I thought I'd get it. I still don't have all the feeling back in my face. So there is a nerve issue that there was a compressed nerve in the back of my head, and it's pretty tough to just get through the day, let alone play golf.

I wrote a release this morning, so I wouldn't have to say this, but I'm retiring at the end of this season. It's -- in some ways it's a relieve, because the injuries have been pretty wicked the last four years. And it's just time to move on and do something that doesn't hurt and is a lot more fun.

RHONDA GLENN: Tell us what you're going to be doing.

DOTTIE PEPPER: Well, fortunately as soon as I made the call about not playing this week, my friends at ESPN and NBC called and I quickly rearranged some flights and sent the girl that works with me packing, because I had nothing but T-shirts and shorts, I was at the Mayo Clinic on Sunday and was rebooked for here on Monday night. And we had the fun job of going through my closet by phone, thinking I would be on the ground, I could have gotten away with it, going across the street to Talbot's in Rochester, Minnesota, but when John Goldstein told me I would be in the booth for the rest of the week I thought, "Oh, my God, this would be a challenge". But I'm really looking forward to it.

RHONDA GLENN: You're pursuing a career in broadcasting.

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'm going to do that. I've also laid the groundwork over the last six weeks to bring the LPGA back, not that it was ever there, to Upstate New York, Northeastern, New York, we have a meeting August 10th, potential siting at Glens Falls Country Club for Dottie's version of Peter's Party. A two person team, probably between 20 and 30 players, total, to benefit a relatively new charity in the area called Cindy's Retreat for -- it's a weekend retreat for kids who are patients, and down the road, with proper funding, for their families, as well. Also pursuing a retail opportunity in Jupiter, Florida. And I think there's a huge void in the market for women's outer wear that's golfable. So I'll be busy.

RHONDA GLENN: I'll be your first customer in South Florida.

Q. You look nice today, Dottie.

DOTTIE PEPPER: Thank you. She put me together, well.

Q. As you were typing out your release, was there any part of you as you were going on that said, that crumpled up and started over?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Just a couple of rewrites, because I tend to get very wordy, which in broadcasting you're not supposed to do. Say it and get out.

Q. As you handed it over to Connie, did you -- any hesitation?


Q. Also, I wonder if you could -- we talked about this a couple of weeks ago, if you could revisit how much you worked early in the year to knuckle down and get your game in shape and how much that contributed to some of the problems?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Last year, there was a couple of relatively minor injuries, but I've been sick for most of the year with recurring, debilitating sinus infections and spent a great deal of time at home wondering what was wrong. And finally after some quack in Florida diagnosed me with Lyme Disease in January I finally got on the phone with Charlie Mechem and he got me on the phone with Arnold Palmer and he got me to the Mayo Clinic. And I finally figured out what the issues were, I came home with a fairly clean bill of health and said, "Let's give this one really last good go", after I realized what the issues are. And at some point when your body continues to break down you have to face the music. So that was what precipitated my decision. The injuries have not made -- have made a game that was really fun, a job.

Q. Could you, for those of us who aren't aware, explain the latest thing with your head?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Yeah, well, at the LPGA Championship -- actually it started in Chicago over the weekend I noticed a great deal of stiffness on the right side of my neck and a lack of motion. And by the time the week, throughout the LPGA Championship had gone by, I had an enormous loss of sensation on the right side of my face. And that continued over the last couple of weeks and spent the night Thursday night in Rochester, New York in the MRI tube, because they just couldn't explain why. And after a pretty bizarre reading there decided to go to Mayo Clinic, they thought I had a dissected carotid artery, that something was seriously wrong, bumped up the aspirin count over the weekend, as a precautionary sort of thing, and went there Monday, had a CT scan and spinal tap, both of which came back negative, thank God. But they did find that one nerve in the back of my head, called the occipital nerve through -- for musculoskeletal reasons has become compressed and it's kind of cut off. Sensation comes and goes. It's more on now, because of the stuff that they've given me to release some of the stuff in my neck, but it's not very comfortable.

Q. Curable?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But I'm tired of battling it.

Q. Forget golf for a minute, how about just life-style, are you going to be okay that way?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'll end up being okay, but when it starts to compromise day-to-day life, that's when it's time to think.

Q. And you're talking about day-to-day life being golf. In other words, are you saying you can be -- you're going to get fine, eventually?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'll play, you know, corporate golf, golf at home, but to do this on a full-time, regular basis, the beating has taken its toll.

Q. Is this your last tournament?

DOTTIE PEPPER: No, Augusta will be. I'm going to play probably six more events through the year, under my contractual obligations I have. And that's in the release. So it will be 16 tournaments by the time the year is over.

Q. After this year -- is it possible you would pop in at a Nabisco one year?

DOTTIE PEPPER: In the booth, sure. No, no. No, the in and out is not for me. You know that. I'm pretty black and white.

Q. My third question is, as we're obviously going to take this time to look back at your career, you wish to be best remembered -- sounds like an obit, doesn't it? When people hear that Dottie Pepper is going to retire --

DOTTIE PEPPER: Let's put it this way, I hope there's not the pall over the golf course there was yesterday. I went out there and walked. I believe that's the way to do it. Broadcasting you need to see 18 holes and put your feet on the golf course. There was like -- it was like a funeral out there, it was awful.

RHONDA GLENN: Why was that? Did they know you were retiring?

DOTTIE PEPPER: No, because I wasn't playing. It was awful. I prefer to think this is really great.

RHONDA GLENN: Dottie, you're talking about playing possibly six more events.

DOTTIE PEPPER: Over three and a half months, I think I can do that, I'll take my weeks off in between.

RHONDA GLENN: What sort of medical price will you pay for that, though? You're going to practice, you're going to warm up.

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'll practice at home some. My typical -- I think Doug and I talked about this, my typical early career sort of stuff is probably the stuff that led to a fairly early retirement. I mean, I practiced like a mad woman and worked out and you can't do that all the time.

RHONDA GLENN: But these upcoming tournaments, will they cause you additional pain or will they cause --

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'll have it pretty much under control by then. If I don't get relief over the next two weeks, which they say I should. I'll go back to the Pain Management Clinic and have it injected.

RHONDA GLENN: What are you doing for this now?

DOTTIE PEPPER: They put me through physical therapy, on Monday and Tuesday, and I'm on their regimen. It's a daily thing, but as long as I'm seeing some positive results I'll stick with it, absolutely.

Q. Dottie, how specific have you gotten with the TV networks, have you signed a contract, do you know how many --

DOTTIE PEPPER: I've signed a contract for the next four days. That's all I know at this point.

Q. Will they talk to you after the tournament?

DOTTIE PEPPER: We'll go from there. It's an avenue I'd like to pursue.

Q. Have they expressed interest in having you do more than this week?


Q. Would you like to do a full schedule?

DOTTIE PEPPER: This year I'm planning on working the Women's Amateur for ESPN. There's been some mention of the Samsung event for NBC later this season on our Tour. Past that I haven't made any specific commitments. But I've got six tournaments I still need to play, so that needs to come first at this point.

Q. This week are you working on the course or up in the booth?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'm dressed too good to be on the course. I'll be in the booth with Gary Koch today and tomorrow and Johnny Miller on Saturday and Sunday.

Q. I'm just trying to figure out how you're going to replace that competitive edge? Have you thought about some of the things that are going to replace it besides the booth? And also your career plans all through these years about being in the Hall of Fame, obviously that's not going to happen now?

DOTTIE PEPPER: No, that will not happen now.

Q. A couple of thoughts about that?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I'd rather feel good than -- at some point, day-to-day health is more important. As far as competitiveness, I don't know if it's so much going forward competitiveness as it is preparedness. With everything I've sort of lined up where my interests are going forward, to me it's like being prepared to start a season or play a Major, you are prepared and then you go forward and expect to do well. So I will prepare for each of these opportunities and expect to do well because I've prepared well.

Q. I don't know if I understand the prognosis. Are you going to be back at some point with this current ailment, and as an example, with NBC, they have very few women's events, would you consider like Judy Rankin, doing events that are men's events?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Well, to answer your first question, yes, the prognosis is for a complete recovery, but there's degeneration, is basically what's happening. And that you can't reverse.

And I'm not willing to feel lousy when I'm 65 or whatever because of a year or two here and there. There's just more to life.

As far as, yeah, crossing over to doing men's events, absolutely. NBC is a network, as you say, that doesn't cover many women's events. And yes, I think you have to explore that.

Q. What was the plan, what was your plan before this, before your physical problems, like 3, 4, 5 years ago, what was your plan, to play?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Yeah, I would probably play. I remember telling a friend of mine at a meeting -- well, in April of 2001 I said, they said, "How long do you think you have left?" I said, "I think I have three or four good years left." It wasn't so good, but that's what I thought I had left. So my estimate was pretty good, the productivity wasn't quite what I thought it would be.

Q. In retrospect do you feel that you've got as much out of the game as you put into it?

DOTTIE PEPPER: Absolutely.

Q. What is your background with TV and were you actually able to play the golf course this week?

DOTTIE PEPPER: No, I've not touched a club. They told me on Thursday night don't even -- when they thought the artery was an issue, they said, "Do not swing a golf club." I originally went -- this is a story going way back, my college search started on the old computers that spit things out little by little by little as an eighth grader looking for colleges south of the Mason Dixon Line that offered communication and golf, not specifying women's golf, but golf. And one of the names that came up in that search was Clemson. And TCU. TCU, I made a recruiting trip to. But after realizing I was that far from Upstate New York, and my parents weren't going to give me a car and they had no on-campus golf course, I ended up at Furman, because the coach at Clemson at that time forwarded the letter to the women's coach at Furman, and that's ultimately how I ended up there. I did take the classes that were offered, although they don't offer it as a major, I was a physical education major with a minor in business, and this has always been something I would really like to do.

Q. Highlight of your career?

DOTTIE PEPPER: It happened very close to here in 1995 when I went to Stratton. It was -- I won basically in my backyard. But it was the first and only time my parents saw me win a tournament. And I think that was the highlight that in my office I finally, after 17 years on Tour had a -- I always hated trophy cases, I thought they were like memorials. But the girl that works for me, her husband was a cabinetmaker, and we decided to do it. And I finally have an office and I have a trophy case, and that trophy sits between my two Majors.

Q. I was just going to ask you the top three memorable times in New England golf, from statistic even to Ferncroft to the five hole playoff at Ferncroft?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I have a good story about Ferncroft, it was the second year on Tour, my caddy, it was an off week for him, he was caddying for Betsy King, and it was on the 7th hole, par-4, the two hazards right and left, and I drove it into this unbelievable Pro Am divot, you know, because there's five in a cluster, and the divot I happened to drive it in was going so far left, and there's nothing -- there is nothing but bad that can happen from this lie. I chipped out. I only had 150 yards to the hole, but I chipped out. It was that bad. That was my memory of Ferncroft.

Here I would have to say the shot I hit in 18 at Friendly's at Crestview to win there. And thinking if I didn't make the putt it was probably going off the green, because it was that downhill and right-to-left. It was either make it or there's not even going to be a playoff.

And as I said, first and foremost at Stratton.

RHONDA GLENN: How about in the Women's Open in Atlanta, when you made this barrage of birdies on the back nine, five or six birdies on a rainy day and suddenly came in contention, I think it was the third round.

DOTTIE PEPPER: It was the fourth round. It was the 36 hole Sunday in Atlanta in 1990. Nearly won the Open on the backside. And I remember Terry Jastrow thinking, "I'm going to kill this kid, she's not going to let me get to the British Open." If there's a playoff and he couldn't get to his flight to make it to the British. So that was my introduction to Jerry Jastrow, he was hoping I would lose. But it was all in a very good way, believe me.

RHONDA GLENN: Because of the rain delay, didn't you play the back nine first and finished on the front side. And they had no cameras.

DOTTIE PEPPER: We had no cameras until maybe three holes to go.

RHONDA GLENN: They sent a remote camera out, because it looked as if you were going to win the Women's Open. You were terribly excited after that.

DOTTIE PEPPER: 66 on Sunday will do that to you.

Q. Every time the Commissioner's spot comes up we talk about bringing a woman into it, will that be something you would entertain down the road?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I haven't even conceptualized something like that. But I guess I have to use that business degree for something. I don't know if it's anything that big, though.

Q. How long did you actually -- how long ago did you actually start thinking about retiring and is there any chance that if you play well in these six tournaments this year that you'll change your mind?

DOTTIE PEPPER: I think if I play well, it makes my decision even easier. But I've been -- as my parents will tell you, I've been contemplating this for over a year. And it's been -- I've bounced it back and forth and -- as I said, in January I pretty much decided, "I'm going to give this one great good go", but when your body says no, it doesn't matter how big your heart is.

Q. I spoke to you down in Wilmington, and you were talking about retirement, did you have an idea it was going to be at the end of the season or is this neck thing really pushed your decision --

DOTTIE PEPPER: It sped it up again, I was hoping to get next year. But this is good, this is really good.

RHONDA GLENN: Dottie, thank you very much. Good luck to you.

End of FastScripts.

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