And now some champagne wishes and caviar dreams from the wives
of PGA Tour players, for whom, it is presumed, home is a beach
house on Easy Street, a bad hair day means having to wear
raccoon instead of mink, car trouble is getting a Buick as a
courtesy car rather than a Cadillac, and 9 to 5 are the hours at
the sauna, not the office.
This is an article from the May 20, 1996 issue
"I would be happy never to spend another night in an airport,
because there have been plenty of those already," says Patti
(Mrs. John) Inman. "I got pretty sick of carrying all the
luggage, but my studly golfer was afraid of hurting his back,"
says Cindy (Mrs. Emlyn) Aubrey, who lugged the bags for six
years, until she became pregnant. "It would be nice if we didn't
have to fit our whole lives into a suitcase and then pack and
unpack it twice weekly," says Kim (Mrs. Jeff) Gallagher. "And
then you get to schlepp it all to the laundromat--if you're
lucky enough to find one," says Julie (Mrs. Ben) Crenshaw.
"Usually you wind up in the seediest part of town, folding your
underwear while trying to dodge the bullets from a drive-by
shooting. I could do without that," says Kelli (Mrs. Jeff)
Maggert. "I'd like to know how many American couples have to
live, eat, breathe and sleep together day after day in some tiny
hotel room," says Ashley (Mrs. Hal) Sutton. "You get so sick of
restaurant food and room service that all you want to do is
stand in front of a refrigerator and marvel at what's inside,"
says Inman. "Out here, the key to happiness is no snotty noses,
no diarrhea and no amoxicillin," says Melissa (Mrs. Tom) Lehman.
Holy matrimony! This doesn't exactly jibe with the notion that a
Tour wife's biggest problems are deciding what number sunblock
to apply to her bikini lines and which of her husband's gold
cards she should max out first. That stereotype, brought to life
by Janie Ruth Puckett, the bubbleheaded hard body in Dan
Jenkins's 1974 spoof of the Tour, Dead Solid Perfect, is way off
base. "People think we lead a glamorous, romantic life of
leisure," says Inman. "They have no idea."
Unlike the major team sports, golf has no off-season and no home
games. It's a gypsy's life, lived largely in hotel rooms,
airports and charmless suburbs. For a player's spouse,
cultivating a career in the face of all the travel is nearly
impossible, and the Tour is one of the few places left where a
woman is expected to be a wife and mother and nothing else. Says
Mr. Beth Kendall, Skip, a five-year veteran, "For the wives out
here, it's all sacrifice. They don't have their own identity,
their own goals or their own accomplishments. Being a Tour wife
is the hardest job in the world."
It is gospel on Tour that behind every good golf swing is a good
woman. The standard-bearer for a long time has been Barbara
Nicklaus, Jack's college sweetheart. "She's the classiest woman
in golf," says Ashley Sutton. "She's an icon to all of us out
here." Barbara's support began early. On their honeymoon, Jack
wanted to play a round at a stag golf club. Barbara dutifully
gave her blessing. That kind of teamwork was the foundation on
which Jack built his success, and both Nicklauses have always
acknowledged it. Years ago they were discussing one of Jack's
contemporaries who was expected to challenge the Bear's
supremacy but never did.
"Well," said Barbara, "he wasn't married when he was on the Tour."
"That's right," said Jack. "He just couldn't get organized."
There's no doubting the importance of having a partner to share
the logistics of a life on the road and to massage away the
outrageous fortune that's part of the game. But what's in it for
the wives? "Simple," says Kim Gallagher. "Life is too short to
be away from the ones you love."
Many of the women say they didn't quite know what they were
signing on for when they married touring pros. During the
Suttons' 11-month courtship, Ashley roadtripped to only four of
Hal's tournaments. "I thought that's what it was going to be
like--a nice, long vacation," she says. Is it still? "Hell, no!"
she says with a whoop.
Another, often unspoken, reason that the wives travel the Tour
is to keep a tight leash on their men. "When you're not there,
you don't know what's going on," says Amy McBride, the
soon-to-be bride of Phil Mickelson. "I trust Phillip, but you
know how girls are. I used to get a little bent out of shape
when other girls would send him roses, or put notes in his
locker or slip him room keys." McBride says such propositioning
has cooled off now that she's chaperoning Mickelson. Of course,
to do so, McBride had to quit her job as a Phoenix Suns dancer
and put her dream of a career in broadcast journalism on hold.
Now she's facing perhaps the toughest part of being a Tour wife
(or fiancee), the hollowness that comes from sacrificing one's
personal ambition to support another's. "Sometimes you feel
insecure, like you're kind of worthless," says McBride. "Some
days you wake up and say, 'I'm going to start my own business
today. I didn't go to school for all those years just to do
Patti Inman knows the feeling. Last season when her husband, a
10-year vet, was sidelined with a back injury, Patti rounded up
the treasures from her years of haunting flea markets and opened
an antique shop in Atlanta with Carolyn Dougherty, whose
husband, Ed, was also injured for a good portion of the year.
Appropriately named The Vagabonds, the shop was a big success.
But with John and Ed both healthy again and playing regularly,
the shop has been boarded up. "I just really needed to be out on
the road supporting John," Patti says. "Giving up your career is
a tough, tough decision, but marriage is all about teamwork, and
you have to do what's best for the team."
A handful of wives have been able to juggle Tour life with
full-time careers. Linda (Mrs. Jeff) Sluman is a practicing
oncologist at the University of Chicago, Jody (Mrs. Billy)
Andrade has her own sports consulting firm, while Karen (Mrs.
Brandel) Chamblee is a flight attendant with American Airlines
who's often able to match her schedule with the Tour's. Linda
(Mrs. Rocco) Mediate sells children's books, and Sandra (Mrs.
Ronnie) Black recently cut a tejano album. They are the
Jody Reedy married Billy Andrade shortly after graduating cum
laude in economics from Wake Forest, in 1988. By the end of her
fourth month on the road she had started working for CBS on its
golf coverage. "Traveling was great for the first couple of
months, and then I got so bored I felt like I was going to
wilt," says Andrade. "Being a wife and a mother is a full-time
job, but I just don't get the intellectual stimulation I need."
In 1993 Jody got a master's degree in sports administration from
Georgia State and launched Andrade Consulting out of an office
in their Atlanta home. "It's hard on a marriage to be apart,"
she says, "but this is what I need to do."
Likewise for Sluman. She was in her third year of medical school
at Illinois when she met Jeff at the 1988 Western Open. Jeff won
the '88 PGA--their second date. They were engaged three months
later, but it was nearly six years before they spent an
uninterrupted month together. "He does his thing and I do mine,"
Linda says. "That's how we like it." With her 40- to 60-hour
workweeks, Linda can only travel to a half-dozen or so
tournaments a year, and usually just for the weekends. She has
forged an identity of her own, which extends all the way to
using her maiden name at the hospital. "In some circles Jeff is
known as Mr. Skoog," says Linda with a chuckle.
Still, the overwhelming career choice among Tour wives is
domestic engineer. "My job is to take care of her," says
Gallagher, cooing at her cherubic daughter of three months,
Allison, "and Jeff's job is to take care of us." Adds Lehman,
"Imagine how hard it is to raise a kid on airplanes and golf
courses and in hotel rooms and restaurants. Now imagine trying
to raise three." Lehman tries to make road trips homey for
Rachael, 5, Holly, 3, and Thomas, 10 months, by bringing
familiar blankets, toys (Baywatch Barbie being the favorite) and
portable cribs, and by keeping a consistent nap schedule. "But
you can't be too uptight out here, because an entire itinerary
can change in about 10 seconds," she says.
Keeping that in mind, here's a typical Lehman family day on the
road: A wake-up call comes at 6:30, courtesy of Thomas's hunger
pangs. While Melissa nurses the baby, Tom will roust the girls,
who stay in an adjoining room. Tom then heads for the golf
course, where he'll wolf down a snack while the others order
from room service. It sounds extravagant, Melissa laments, but
it's a lifesaver, and even the kids know it. Recently Rachael
was watching her mom scrounge together a meal at home in
Scottsdale, Ariz., when she said, "Mom, let's just order room
Tom cedes the courtesy car to Melissa, so her first stop is the
day-care center that's provided by each tournament. There the
girls fall into their cliques with the other Tour kids.
Occasionally Melissa will sneak out with the baby to watch Tom
play nine holes. But it's a must that they're all back at the
hotel for two o'clock naps. Later in the afternoon Melissa and
the kids will check out the local sights, especially zoos,
parks, beaches and amusement parks. Tom is home around sunset,
often after bumming a ride from another player, and the Lehmans
then trundle off to Cracker Barrel or another restaurant of the
family genre. After dinner it's baths, lullabies and bedtime--for
the kids too.
Not that Mr. Lehman gets to shirk his domestic duties. "I
flippantly call him my nanny," Melissa says. "He's all mine once
he's done at the golf course. I don't consider him any different
from a father who works at an office 9 to 5 and then has to come
home and take care of the kids." Tom doesn't mind the work.
"Spending time with the kids is stabilizing," he says. "It
brings back some perspective. You try to be a normal person as
much as you can, even though it's a very abnormal lifestyle."
For the underappreciated wife there always seems to be a catch.
Says Melissa, "The instant people see Tom holding hands with the
girls or pushing the baby, they're like, Oh, what a great dad.
Puh-leeze! I've been bustin' my butt all day, so how come I'm
not getting any kudos?"
At least for Melissa, as for most Tour wives, recognition is
just one pillow over. Says Tom Lehman, "You can't count on
playing well every day, but you can always count on getting a
hug from your wife when the day's over. Out here that makes all