A Sure Thing At the Shore

April 07, 1991

Sure, Amy Alcott can be smug and spacey, but she knows how to enliven a golf tournament. She certainly perked things up at the Nabisco Dinah Shore last week, which took some doing because her runaway victory and near-flawless play could just as easily have turned the LPGA's first major championship of the year into a major yawner.

By her own unblushing assessment, Alcott played "phenomenally" in missing only nine greens and making 18 birdies and three bogeys in 72 holes at Mission Hills Country Club, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. But even when she opened a seven-shot lead after three rounds, there was some high anxiety on Sunday: Would Alcott break her own tournament scoring record? Would she jump into the lake surrounding the 18th green, as she did after winning the Shore in 1988? And would the tournament hostess join Alcott in the drink?

Shore wrote in the foreword of Alcott's recently published guide to women's golf that she would jump into the lake herself if Alcott ever won the tournament again. And no one was doubting that Shore would keep her word, especially after her high-spirited performance at the dinner following last week's pro-am, when she cracked up Nabisco executives by singing a rap song about the sponsor's products. Sample line: "What I can do with a Wheat Thin is really a sin."

So there was more than a casual rooting interest for Alcott as she attacked the course anew on Sunday. Fittingly, she birdied the 18th hole, her 12-foot putt giving her an eight-stroke victory over Dottie Mochrie and a record 15-under-par total score of 273. Then the gallery gave a rousing cheer as she joined hands with Shore and caddie Bill Kurre, and the three of them took a running jump into the lake.

"I wasn't going to jump in," Alcott, 35, said later. "I thought at this point in my life, I just wanted to accept the trophy with some dignity. But it's just not my style."

Aggressive play was more her style. In becoming the first three-time winner of the Shore, Alcott, who also won in 1983, had rounds of 67, 70, 68 and 68 to break by one stroke the tournament record she set in '88. On Thursday, she flirted with disaster on the par-4 16th hole by boldly putting her tee shot close to a tree that stands in the middle of the fairway. She wound up birdieing the hole from 20 feet to go four under. Another birdie at 18 gave her a two-shot lead, and she was never headed. "I'm just that good," Alcott said after the round. "I can hit it that close to the trees and still make birdie. This was the round of living dangerously."

Alcott's postround press conferences seemed like postcards from the edge. Last Saturday, when asked if she had ever come from far behind to win—a question prompted by the task facing Tammie Green, Martha Nause, Patty Sheehan and Mochrie, all of whom were seven shots back after 54 holes—Alcott replied, "I made up five shots at the Colgate Far East Open in Manila in 1976, despite seeing four snakes on the course, which freaked me out. One went across the tee, looked up at me and went Aaaahhkk.' "

Her giddiness at the Shore was understandable. She had not won since July 1989, and she had trouble concentrating on her game last year because her mother, Lea, was battling cancer and died in August. "I'm bouncing back," Alcott said. "I'm looking forward to the times ahead."

What's almost surely ahead is a spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame. With 29 tour victories, Alcott is one win shy of the total she needs for automatic induction. It should be some ceremony.

PHOTOV.J. LOVEROAlcott was on target all week, hitting 63 of 72 greens. PHOTOV. J. LOVEROWinless for 20 months, Alcott made a splash with Shore and Kurre.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)