When Dottie Mochrie and Danielle Ammaccapane, the top two LPGA money-winners, end up in the same threesome, they tend to look like a pair of wide receivers split to opposite sides of the field. After teeing off, Dottie stakes out one side of the fairway, Danielle stakes out the other side, and they play the entire round saying hardly a word to each other. This arrangement keeps them out of each other's way, but it usually puts the third member of their group smack in the middle of their bitter and longstanding rivalry.
"It's pretty funny," says tour veteran Elaine Crosby, who has played with the duo. "Dottie talked to me for a while, then Danielle talked to me, but they never talked to each other. And if one of them hit a good shot, it had to be really good for the other to even acknowledge it."
Crosby can laugh about it now, but she knows that the last place anyone really wanted to be was in the middle when Mochrie, 27, and Ammaccapane, 26, took aim at each other this year. That's because their grudge—now six years old—took on a new vigor as the two pros slugged it out for LPGA bragging rights. Mochrie has won four tour events in 1992; Ammaccapane has won three. Starting in May they had a stranglehold on the top of the money-winner's list. Mochrie currently leads everyone, with $693,335 this year, $185,210 more than you know who.
When Hall of Famers Carol Mann and Kathy Whitworth wrestled for all the trophies back in 1968 and '69, their battles ended with a kind word and a smile. That'll never happen between Mochrie and Ammaccapane (pronounced ah-mock-ah-PAH-nee). Says Dan Wilson, Ammaccapane's caddie, "They both hate to lose." Especially to each other. Says John Killeen, another tour caddie, who is friendly with both players, "Each of them always knows where the other one is."
October 4, 1992
Where they usually are is running neck and neck. Mochrie won her first tournament in February 1989; Ammaccapane's first triumph came two years later. Mochrie joined the LPGA's millionaire's club in February of this year, after four years as a pro; Ammaccapane joined her two months later, also after four years on the tour. "She's like a fly at a picnic," Mochrie says of Ammaccapane, chuckling slightly. "She just won't go away."
LPGA officials look at all this and see the stuff of which fan interest is made. But while Mochrie and Ammaccapane don't have to fake their mutual disdain, they do seem genuinely uninterested in playing up their rivalry. Says Ammaccapane, "I don't want it to get blown out of proportion." Says Mochrie, "I don't want to sound like we're two old biddies who can't bury the hatchet."
Too late. The rivalry between Mochrie and Ammaccapane began in earnest at the 1985 NCAA tournament, when they were sophomores. An unheralded Ammaccapane, playing for Arizona State, came from nowhere in the final round to win by a stroke over Deb Richard, Jody Rosenthal and Mochrie, who was the top player at Furman and a pretournament favorite. "The three of us got sucked into believing it was between us, and then Danielle snuck in," Mochrie recalls.
The hostility surfaced a year later, when Mochrie and Ammaccapane were both named to represent the U.S. on the 1986 Curtis Cup team. The amateurs from Great Britain and Ireland trounced the Americans 13-5 to win the Cup for the first time in 30 years, and Mochrie and Ammaccapane bickered their way to an 0-2 record as partners in the foursomes matches.
USGA secretary Judy Bell, who captained the team, had paired Mochrie and Ammaccapane. "Their games fit so well," she says now, shaking her head at the thought. But the two players who seemed like a heavenly pair behaved like partners from hell. With the pair one down, Mochrie hit a tee shot on the 3rd hole that skipped into a deep fairway bunker and settled on the lip. As Ammaccapane stood in the trap to hit the team's next shot, she muttered that she "shouldn't even be here." With Mochrie, the gallery and the late P.J. Boatwright, the USGA's rules guru, watching in disbelief, Ammaccapane dug her feet deep into the sand—an illegal bit of stance-building that resulted in the Brits being automatically awarded the hole. Mochrie was already walking disgustedly to the next tee when Boatwright announced the penalty. The pair eventually lost the match 2 and 1.
Animosity over the episode lingers to this day. "She hit it over there," Ammaccapane says. "I didn't know you couldn't [build a stance]. You can't believe how hard a shot that was."
"And just because I hit a bad shot." an incredulous Mochrie still wonders aloud, "it's not her responsibility to try hard?"
Mochrie is 5'6", 130 pounds, and consistently drives the ball about 230 yards. Though she sprays a lot of tee shots (she's ranked 48th on the tour in fairways hit), she recovers nicely with help from her irons (third in greens hit) and her putter (first in birdies). Ammaccapane is an inch shorter than Mochrie and 10 pounds lighter. Her drives average 219 yards (124th on the tour). She can't reach most par 5s in two (20th in eagles), so she relies on accuracy (third in fairways hit) and a wicked short game (third-best at getting up and down from the bunker and an average of 29 putts a round).
Despite their many differences, Mochrie and Ammaccapane have a lot in common. Both players, for instance, were groomed by their fathers. Don Pepper, Mochrie's dad, was a minor league standout in Detroit's organization who made SI's cover in 1968, along with four other promising big league rookies. It didn't matter that he had no sons; he still staged running, fielding and hitting contests between Dottie and her younger sister, Jackie, in the front yard of their home in Wilton, N.Y. When Dottie was eight, grandmother Pepper bought her a Chi Chi Rodriguez junior set, and Dottie began practicing at a driving range.
In Phoenix in 1976, 10-year-old Danielle retired from tennis a few months after taking up the game, following an embarrassing defeat in her very first match. So Ralph Ammaccapane, a restaurant owner with a 15 handicap, brought home a set of cut-down Hogans and taught his oldest daughter another game. "I have a killer instinct," Danielle says proudly. "Running all over the tennis court with nothing to show for it wasn't for me."
Dottie and Danielle both grew up playing against boys who resented their presence on the course. At age 11, when Dot-tie lost a club match-play championship to a boy five years older, the fellow and his friends asked hopefully if she would hang up her spikes. "No way," she replied, then headed for the practice range. Dottie's fifth-grade teacher even warned Lynn Pepper that her daughter was putting way too much pressure on herself. "She was definitely a Type A child," says Lynn.
Later, the boys on Dottie's high school team would love that intensity. After her high school coach saw her hitting at the range, he petitioned the New York State Board of Education for special permission to make her eligible for the all-boys' varsity team. She made the squad as an eighth-grader. Two years later she was the team's No. 1 player.
At Furman, Dottie marched around the course like a marine drill sergeant, glaring at bad shots and celebrating good ones as if she had just stormed the beach at Normandy. Says Mic Potter, the women's coach at Furman, "She's got a competitive drive most people can't even understand."
By contrast, Danielle's male teammates on the Thunderbird High team in Phoenix didn't take kindly to her presence. "It was brutal," Ammaccapane says now. "But I learned to adjust." By her senior year she was one of the top two players on the squad. "In college," Ammaccapane says, "my game went into high gear." She won the first college tournament she entered and then nine more, including the 1985 NCAAs, to set a school record—which still stands—for victories by a female golfer. "She's a fighter, but she doesn't go through emotional highs and lows on the course," says Linda Vollstedt, her college coach. "She tunes everything out and focuses on what she has to do."
If Ammaccapane is still a deep freezer on the course, Mochrie is a human blast furnace, and those differences don't end when they're away from the game. Mochrie's intensity doesn't shut off when she signs her scorecard. She enjoys making her own travel arrangements and managing her own finances on a laptop computer. Her husband of six years, Doug, a former club pro who now negotiates her endorsement deals, calls his wife "a walking time bomb." In fact, after her bouts two years ago with ulcers, colitis and a hiatal hernia, he scooped up the couple's dog, Shank, and joined his wife as a full-time caddie, coach and tranquilizer. Mochrie's health has improved, as has her temperament. At the end of the day she now dotes on Doug and Shank instead of pouting about her round.
Away from the game Ammaccapane couldn't be more carefree. "I hated school, and I was a terrible student," she says, explaining why, despite four years as a student and lots of tutoring, she left Arizona State without a degree. "Too bad ASU couldn't just give me a degree in golf." An agent takes care of her finances while Ammaccapane showers her family and herself with presents. Danielle's idea of making travel arrangements is choosing among her Chevy S-10 Blazer, Nissan 300ZX and Nissan Maxima for trips to the mall. "I get bored very easily," she says. "I have to have change, and I like doing things at a fast pace." Translation: She gets huge credit card bills and an occasional speeding ticket but no ulcers.
At the Oldsmobile Classic two years ago, Mochrie's colleagues called her brash for—among other transgressions—charging ahead to the next tee and hitting her drive before her partners had finished putting out. As for Ammaccapane, she was considered self-absorbed because she refused to make room in her world for things like tact and because she lacked a working knowledge of the rules of golf. "I don't claim to know the rules," she says, after gleefully detailing her past infractions. "That's why we have a field staff."
Lately Mochrie's petulance seems to have subsided, which means she gets fewer fines for "conduct unbecoming an LPGA member." And Ammaccapane is trying to open up with an occasional "good shot" to her playing partners. Unless, of course, the partner is Mochrie.
That's not to say they don't respect each other's games. Last April at the Sega Women's Championship in Atlanta, Ammaccapane's second shot on the par-5 18th hole was short of the green, but Mochrie, who had a one-stroke lead, still expected her rival to birdie. "With her short game, I knew I would have to birdie to win," Mochrie said later. Sure enough, Ammaccapane chipped to nine inches from the cup, and she tapped in for a birdie and a share of the lead. Mochrie answered with a brilliant chip and a birdie of her own to win the tournament by a shot. Said Ammaccapane, "When [my chip] didn't go in, I knew I was playing for second because Dottie is too good of a player not to get up and down."
How sporting. So are they ready to bury the hatchet? No way.