When Sarah Pileggi, whose article on Evonne Goolagong's victory over Chris Evert begins on page 24, became a staff writer four years ago, golf was the sport she knew and loved best. "It always will be my favorite," she says, "and amateur golf above all, because the prestige of amateur competition has not been diminished by the professional arm of the sport. That's fairly unusual these days."
But as are most of our writers, Sarah was called upon to diversify, and now has to her credit not only a distinguished collection of golf articles, but also pieces on athletes as dissimilar as Evert and Lyle Alzado, as well as coverage of, among other things, a bike race in Colorado, a boomerang contest in Washington, skateboarding in California, the AAU and NCAA cross-country championships, an international weightlifting competition in Las Vegas and a National Public Links Golf tournament in Coon Rapids, Minn., "Where I spent a week in a motel built to look like a hacienda."
Pileggi's most unlikely assignment, she feels, was reporting on the progress of Olympic construction in Montreal. The most frustrating was the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs tennis match.
"Curry Kirkpatrick was writing the story, and I was supposed to do the Billie Jean King side and give him my notes," Pileggi recalls. "Only there was no Billie Jean King side. She stayed in seclusion. She came out once a day for a news conference, and other than that, you could only talk to a person called Marilyn the Secretary. You'd ask Marilyn what Billie Jean had for dinner. My one scoop was thanks to Ted Tingling—he let me have the first look at her dress. It was sort of sea green. And he explained to me that one side of a tennis player's dress has to be fitted differently from the other, because of her serve."
March 27, 1978
Variety, happily, has turned out to be the spice of Sarah's life. "The nicest thing about the job is that you never know where you'll be going next, or what you'll discover when you get there.
"The most delightful place I have ever been," she says, "is Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, where I did a story on Jan Todd, the powerlifter. She lives on a farm, 70 miles from Halifax, and I stayed in a little log cabin perched on the edge of a lake. Every night Jan and her husband Terry would drop me at the end of a narrow path, hand me a flashlight and I would hike up to the cabin. It had electric lights but no plumbing. I would gingerly venture into the dark, certain there was a bear lurking near the outhouse.
"The cabin was really lonely, and at first the silence and isolation were overwhelming. But I grew to love the tranquillity, the stillness of the lake, the delicate autumn morning light. When it was time for me to leave I was genuinely saddened."
And was there a bear?
"No," Sarah says. "In this job, surprises are lurking everywhere, but not one of them so far has turned out to be a bear."