If it's Sunday, Helen Alfredsson, the Willowy, redheaded LPGA player from G‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√†√áteborg, Sweden, is most likely scorching another golf course—and the ears of another gallery. Alfredsson, the tour's 1992 Rookie of the Year, blisters every shabby shot with a string of Swedish epithets, though lately she hasn't had a whole lot to curse about. In March she won the year's first major, the Nabisco Dinah Shore, and in her six most recent tournaments she has been among the top six five times, including a second-place finish in last month's U.S. Open. With only Patty Sheehan ahead of her in money earned this year, Alfredsson, 28, is poised to become only the third golfer in LPGA history to be named Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year back-to-back.
Alfredsson came to the U.S. in 1984 on a golf scholarship from San Diego's U.S. International University. She had already won, four Swedish women's amateur titles and had also worked for six months as a runway model in Paris. "It was a meat market," she told London's Financial Times earlier this year. "It was just makeup, calories and drugs. And I got out of it fast. Now I wear long shorts to hide my cellulite."
At U.S. International she wasn't an immediate success. Her coach, Gordon Severson, deemed her uncoachable. "I liked to do things my way," Alfredsson says now. "So Gordon said I couldn't be coached. We argued all the time about how to do things. He was never satisfied."
Severson made that all too clear. He kicked Alfredsson off the team three times in four years. Her first suspension, she says, was for the heinous infraction of studying on the course during practice. An international-business major, she carried textbooks in her golf bag. The last suspension came after Severson learned that she was romantically involved with the school's men's soccer coach, Leo Cuellar, a fanner World Cup player from Mexico, who was 13 years her senior and in the process of getting divorced. "I saw this guy with tight pants, shirt open to here, and all these gold chains," recalls Alfredsson. "I said to myself, 'You got to be crazy,' but then I thought, 'Well, why not?' We had a great time. I was older coming to college. I didn't fit in with the Valley girls, chewing gum."
Cuellar, now a coach at Cal State-Los Angeles, and Alfredsson have been engaged for five years. "Leo, " she says resignedly, "is on ma‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±ana time." Which is just as we'll because her life these days is almost entirely taken up with golf. She admits to the occasional need to "kick back," but not the way she did when she was younger. "I had my party time in high school in Sweden," she says. "Serious party time. But getting in at five and up at eight—forget it." She confesses to still having a taste for a potent combination of several liquors known as a Long Island Iced Tea ("I like them because they don't waste much time") but indulges only during a rare respite from the weekly grind of the tour, in which she now ranks fifth both in driving distance (245.5 yards) and in scoring average (71.40), and seventh in percentage of greens hit in regulation (.691). Noting her length off the tee and deft putting stroke, LPGA veteran Amy Alcott calls Alfredsson "the player of the '90s."
That prophecy is fast becoming reality.