Fresh Start Hoping to begin the new season by coming to grips with an old problem, the LPGA proposed a more reasonable standard for gaining entry into its Hall of Fame

January 25, 1999

There was one August afternoon in 1982 that was special, so
special that it made a lasting impression on 26-year-old Amy
Alcott. That day JoAnne Carner, then 43, won the Chevrolet World
Championship of Women's Golf in suburban Cleveland while paired
with Alcott for the final round. "That got her into the Hall of
Fame," Alcott says. "I cried. It was such a wonderful moment. I
thought, This is where I want to be someday." What, Cleveland?
No, the Hall of Fame.

Almost 17 years later, someday finally arrived for Alcott. She
was home last week in Santa Monica, Calif., when she got a
message to call fellow tour player Meg Mallon in Orlando. She
reached Mallon on Jan. 11, just as an LPGA committee meeting was
breaking up.

"Has the commissioner called you?" Mallon asked. No, said Alcott.
"Well, hang on then," Mallon said, "there's someone here who
wants to talk to you."

The next thing Alcott heard was Carner's unmistakable, raspy
voice. "I've got something to tell you, if you haven't heard,"
Carner began.

"I knew right then and there it was about the Hall of Fame,"
Alcott says.

Carner told Alcott that the Hall of Fame committee had
unanimously voted to propose changes to the Hall's strict
entrance requirements and that if approved by LPGA members (votes
are due Feb. 5), Alcott and Beth Daniel would, at long last, be
inducted.

You have to understand that the LPGA runs the best little Hall of
Fame in professional sports. Little? Yes, only 14 have made it
in. The best? Yes, admission had been based solely on the number
of tournament victories, with a minimum of 30 needed, more if
there are less than two majors in the mix. No voting, no
favoritism, no bogus entrants. The price of such an elite Hall,
however, is that getting in is as much of an ordeal as it is an
honor. "In the last several years," Daniel says, "there have been
many times that I was in the hunt and thought, Maybe this will be
the one that gets me in. It was a lot of pressure." Only two
players, Carner and Nancy Lopez, made it in the '80s, and just
three, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan and Betsy King, in the '90s.
Most of the tour's best players never make it. Those closest to
qualifying are usually near the end of long, successful careers.
At a time when they should be celebrated, they are instead cast
as failures.

Now, for Alcott and Daniel, the ordeal is over. The 42-year-old
Daniel, who needed 35 wins because she had only one major to her
credit, last won in 1995. Alcott, 43, hasn't had a victory since
the '91 Nabisco Dinah Shore, her fifth major and 29th win
overall. "It has been as if what I had done didn't really
matter," Alcott says. Adds Daniel, "The main thing I'm going to
feel is relief."

Which is pretty much what Kelly Robbins was feeling on Sunday
after firing a 64 to make up five strokes on Tina Barrett and
Catriona Matthew, the overnight leaders, and defend her title in
the season-opening HealthSouth Inaugural at Grand Cypress Resort,
in Orlando. Despite eight top 10 finishes in '98, Robbins won
only twice. "The middle of the year was the longest period since
I've been a pro when my game wasn't good," she said. "I couldn't
wait to get last year over with."

Alcott knows about waiting. For the past eight years she could
have signed her checks Ms. 29. At the grocery store, in the
airport, during pro-ams, the subject always came up. Alcott likes
to tell about the time she cracked her hotel room door to get the
paper one morning in Nashville. "I was in my underwear and bra,
put my hand out, and a guy in a suit walked by," Alcott says. "He
probably saw only one of my eyes, but he must've known I was in
that room. He said, 'I hope you get that one more win.'"

Under the new criteria a player must accrue 27 points and be a
tour member for 10 years. Majors are worth two points. One point
is given for other victories and for low scoring average and
player of the year awards. If this system had been in place all
along, Alcott would have entered the Hall 14 years ago. Daniel
hit 27 points in 1990.

Once the Inaugural began, kicking off the LPGA's 49th season, the
Hall of Fame remained the storyline. On Friday, Lopez shot a 66
to share the first-round lead (she would finish 15th). Then on
Saturday Sheehan matched that to move within a shot of the lead
(she came in 22nd). On Sunday, though, no one could catch
Robbins, who won by a stroke over Barrett and Karrie Webb. With
nine wins, including a major, Robbins is more than a third of the
way to the Hall.

What's left for Robbins may seem like a long journey, but it's a
blink of an eye compared to Alcott's and Daniel's. On her flight
to Florida, Alcott had filled six notebook pages with the names
of friends she has made during her years in the game.

"I'm going to have a hell of a Hall of Fame party," she said,
pushing back her visor and smiling at the idea. "Maybe
several."

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BEN VAN HOOK FAME GAME Both Robbins, who came on with a Sunday rush, and Alcott (opposite), who ended eight years of Hall of Fame exile, felt like winners at the Inaugural.[Kelly Robbins playing golf; Amy Alcott playing golf]

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)