On Sunday evening, after Tammie Green had tried on her green
champion's jacket and accepted all the other booty--a medallion,
a silver trophy, a check for $180,000--that goes to the winner
of the Sprint Titleholders Championship, she faced a gantlet of
feverish fans at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Hats,
programs and T-shirts were thrust in her face. One guy shoved a
newspaper toward her and yelled, "Tammie! Sign my headline!" As
she complied, the crush of people and pens moved like lava
toward the press tent until the four security guards surrounding
Green finally cleared a path to the waiting media. Green,
wide-eyed and smiling, could relate, briefly, to the last golfer
to don a green jacket on national TV. "Hey," she said when she
was safely inside the press tent, "I'm Tiger Woods!"
But unlike Woods's 12-shot triumph at the Masters, Green's final
round was no cushy victory lap. She led wire to wire, but after
coping with a pair of lightning delays last Saturday, she had to
face two other elemental forces on Sunday: a 25-mph wind and a
challenge from Annika Sorenstam, the LPGA's leading money
winner, who surged to within one stroke of Green before running
out of holes. Green never wavered, and her closing 72 and
personal-best four-round score of 274, 14 under par, provided a
The title, Green's fifth in 10 1/2 years on the tour, was
particularly gratifying, coming as it did less than 15 months
after she had undergone emergency surgery to repair a ruptured
ovarian cyst. "That was a real wake-up call," says the
37-year-old Green, who also had her appendix removed during the
surgery. "It made me think about whether I'd ever have children
and whether I'd ever win on the tour again. How long would it
take to get back to the winner's circle? How much dedication
would it take? At least the doctor was very particular about
reconnecting my abdominal muscles. I appreciated that."
When she returned to golf in March '96, only four weeks after
the surgery--"About two weeks too early," she says--Green, a
native of Somerset, Ohio (pop. 1,500), struggled to regain the
form that had made her one of the LPGA's best players in 1993
and '94, when she won three times and had three runner-up
finishes. "Last year I didn't have the strength to play full
tournaments," Green says. "It was frustrating. To get rid of
some of that frustration and to know I can put together four
good rounds and win is a real plus for this season."
May 11, 1997
Another plus is the handsome payoff for winning this
tradition-laden event. Green vaulted all the way from 61st to
sixth on the money list, and the victory put her name next to
some of the LPGA's alltime greats. The Titleholders was first
played in 1937 at Augusta Country Club as the women's answer to
the Masters, held next door at Augusta National. The tournament
enjoyed major status for 29 years before it died for lack of
funding in the mid-'60s. Since Sprint breathed new life, and
cash (the $1.2 million in prize money matches the tour's two
largest purses, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's
Open), into the Titleholders, the event has become the LPGA's
unofficial fifth major, and there's growing sentiment for the
tournament to be officially designated as such. "I'm not married
to the idea of having just four majors," says LPGA commissioner
Jim Ritts, "but you get penalized for self-adulation. This
tournament has all the hallmarks--home course, top purse,
strongest field, depth of history--of becoming, over time, a
'lowercase m' major like the Players Championship, which is
often called the men's fifth major. But I say let those who play
and cover the sport designate it. I want this to naturally
evolve to its ultimate status."
One thing is certain: LPGA International, opened in July 1994
and home to the Titleholders for the last three years, is not
yet an appropriate setting for an "uppercase M" major. Still in
the early stages of a 10-year development plan--the facility
will eventually be home to a Hotel Intercontinental, a second
18-hole course and a 50,000-square-foot clubhouse--LPGA
International is short on amenities. When lightning first sent
spectators and players running for shelter on Saturday
afternoon, the golfers were told to stay away from their "locker
room" because the tent in which it was housed might not be safe.
Some of the players who weren't lucky enough to be interrupted
within sight of Ritts's spacious, three-TV, snack-filled house
beside the 7th fairway, as Kris Tschetter was, were forced to
wait out the three-hour interruption in their cars.
Lengthy storm delays were only one of the week's unexpected
developments. Noticeably absent from the leader board was 1996
player of the year Laura Davies, a pillar of the European tour
who tends to make a lot of hay in the U.S. between March and
May, a stretch in which she has won 11 of her 15 LPGA titles.
Five weeks ago she won the Standard Register Ping in Phoenix for
a record fourth consecutive year, but since then she has had
four middling finishes, including last week's tie for 14th,
eight strokes behind Green. Considered by many to be the
paramount player in women's golf--she has won 50 times
worldwide--Davies has recently been eclipsed by Sorenstam and
Karrie Webb, last year's Titleholders champion (page 68). "I
think Laura is still the dominant player on the tour," says one
of Davies's friends, fellow pro Mardi Lunn. "Certainly she'd
dominate if she played here all the time. Nobody else has the
schedule she has. She must put in 500,000 air miles a year
traveling to Europe, Japan, Australia or here every week."
Davies, who lives in West Byfleet, a town about 50 miles
southwest of London, agrees that it's all a matter of time.
"Obviously, I'd play a hell of a lot better if I spent all my
time over here," she says, "but that's never going to happen.
I'm 100 percent committed to the European tour. It gave me my
start, and if it doesn't survive, we may not see a lot more
great European players. But someday I may look back and say it
was stupid not to give the LPGA three or four years."
Her week in Daytona was typical in that it included very little
practice--Davies seldom plays practice rounds because she plays
in so many tournaments and because "she can get away with it,"
says another friend, Kathryn Marshall--and the usual diversions,
such as trips to the dog track and a stint as a guest bartender
at a sports bar. The only thing missing was her usual strong
finish. Starting her Sunday round seven shots off the lead,
Davies struggled to a 73 for a six-under-par 282. Her problem?
"I putted like a dog," she said.
Green, meanwhile, putted beautifully, thanks to a new putter and
a bit of advice from a friend, Bill Parker, who had watched her
play a shaky practice round on Tuesday. After noticing that
Green was moving her head on putts, Parker suggested that she
play the ball forward in her stance and concentrate on keeping
her head still after making contact. "That small adjustment made
a huge difference," Green said. "I felt comfortable over the
putts all week."
On a balmy Thursday, Green jumped ahead with an opening-round 66
and followed with a 67 on an equally pleasant Friday. On
Saturday conditions changed--from hour to hour. Before the
foul-weather horn sounded at 2:50 p.m., the players fought
swirling winds and struggled to make pars. After enjoying the
storm-shelter hospitality chez Ritts, Tschetter, who had been
trailing Green by a stroke before play was interrupted, took
advantage of the softened greens and the now calm air by making
three birdies in a four-hole stretch. Before play was suspended
for the day by another lightning storm as darkness fell, she had
tied Green with two holes left to play in her third round.
Tschetter lost her edge as soon as play resumed in the wind
early on Sunday morning. She hit her first ball into the water
at the 17th and made double bogey, setting the stage for a trip
to deepest, darkest, Greg Norman hell. Tschetter would add two
more doubles and three bogeys during a catastrophic day in which
she dropped nine strokes over 20 holes. Remarkably amiable
despite her collapse, Tschetter admitted that every decision she
made turned out to be wrong. "It was one of those days when I
was happy to be in the sand," she said.
Tschetter's time-consuming struggles helped put her threesome,
which included Green and Kristal Parker-Gregory, on the rules
officials' clock by the 8th hole of the final round. "I got out
of my rhythm and felt like I was rushing shots several times,"
said Green, who feared being penalized for slow play. She was
also feeling the pressure being applied by Sorenstam, who was
playing five groups ahead. Sorenstam birdied the par-5 18th to
finish 12 under and one off the lead while Green was still in
the 15th fairway. Well aware that the tournament was hers to win
or lose, Green chunked a six-iron short of the green but saved
par by knocking in an eight-foot putt. "I knew what I had to
do," Green said. "I stuck to my guns and went through my routine
and kept the emotions out of it."
Emotions finally got the better of Green as she walked up the
fairway of the easy 18th needing only a par to win. Before she
could pull out her trusty red-shafted wedge and hit her approach
to the green, she was intercepted by a CBS cameraman who asked
her to say something to the folks back home in Ohio. "I got this
lump in my throat," said Green, who croaked out a "Hi, Mom" and
"Hi, T's" (for her five siblings, whose names also begin with
the letter T) before pitching to within a few feet of the hole.
Still fighting back tears, she drained the putt for birdie and a
The crowd roared, the cameras rolled and the autograph hounds
pulled out their pens. It was nice to be back in the winner's