Golf Guide: Pepper making broadcasting history at Masters
ALBANY Straight-talking Dottie Pepper is never afraid of monumental moments.
Turn the spotlight on this former LPGA super star, and she constantly rises to the occasion.
An author and an independent board member of the PGA of America at both the national and local sectional levels, the Wilton native was the assistant captain for the United States team during last year’s Solheim Cup.
Formerly a golf broadcaster for both NBC and The Golf Channel, Pepper is now working for ESPN in the same capacity. It’s in that role where she is making history during the Masters telecast, which began Thursday.
“I’m going to be the first woman to broadcast live from Augusta National,” beamed Pepper, who was recently the guest speaker for the Executive Women’s Golf Association’s kickoff event at the Desmond Hotel & Conference Center.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Pepper will shine in her new role, just as she has for all of her previous ones, mostly because of her message that she gave to the EWGA.
“It’s about opportunity and preparation,” she said.
Tremendous physical talent helped make Pepper one of the greatest players of her time on the golf course, but her attention to detail has produced even more success off of it.
As a commentator, her tremendous knowledge of the game is bolstered by her hard work and preparation.
“I think my favorite golf commentator today is Judy Rankin,” Pepper said. “She taught me to say the most you can in as few words as possible. That’s what I try to do.”
Pepper also said she appreciates the broadcasting talents of people like Vern Lundquist and Mike Tirico, who are both known for being extremely prepared in a variety of sports they broadcast.
But unlike many of her TV media peers, Pepper is also involved in numerous other pursuits, like her children’s book series about “Bogey” the golf ball, and her corresponding desire to grow the game of golf at the junior level.
“Youth and family development are the keys to the growth,” said Pepper. “There are numerous new projects that the PGA and USGA are involved in. One that is very special is that there will be a free junior golf month in April. That means a 30-minute free lesson for children on Saturdays.
“Education about the game is an opportunity to hit someone in the face. If you open the door to education, there are no limits,” she said. “You can never be too prepared.”
Pepper, a Saratoga High School and Furman graduate, said she is able to handle all the new directions in her career because of her education at Furman.
“I learned from my sports management program back at Furman. I was always my own agent when I was a player,” she said.
Pepper pointed out that the new PGA junior leagues have made a 200 percent growth because they’ve brought the Little League baseball mentality to golf. “It’s a non-threatening activity,” she said.
“Access to the game is the biggest problem. Golf is very expensive, but there are a lot of empty tee times that are unused. Why not bring a buddy to your golf course, even if they aren’t a [course] member?”
Pepper said it’s especially important to bring more young girls into the game. They lag far behind the boys at the junior level.
“A lot of it is personal,” she said. “Golf is a very individual game. You have to make it a friendly environment for young girls. I think we can copy the Canadians, who have a funnel effect with their junior golf programs. Believe it or not, the No. 1 sport in elementary school in Canada is not hockey, but rather golf. It’s part of their curriculum.”
Pepper said more schools should offer the sport as part of the physical education program, and she added that programs like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs should do the same thing.
Pepper is also extremely active in her role with the PGA of America. She said she takes her vote on the board very seriously and does her homework on all the important topics of the day.
The 47-year-old Pepper has the greatest resume of any Capital Region golfer ever. She not only captured 17 LPGA Tour victories, including a pair of majors, but she was also the 1992 Rolex Player of the Year, when she earned the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.
She played 267 LPGA tournaments and earned more than $6.8 million in more than 17 seasons. She is still among the all-time leaders in career earnings.
She was known as a fierce competitor, especially in Solheim Cup competition, when she recorded a 13-5-2 record. Her 14 points scored are the third-highest total ever for a U.S. player.
As an amateur, Pepper won the New York State Girls’ Amateur championship and won a pair of Gazette Women’s Amateur crowns. She was a three-time All-American for Furman and then also won a Futures Tour title as an amateur.