In this entertaining and fascinating collection of candid conversations, Amy Alcott offers a rare look at the personal lives and experiences-both on and off the golf course-of prominent entertainers, athletes, political leaders, and other influential figures. A fierce love of the game connects them all, but their varied anecdotes show how this magical sport has touched each of their lives in unique ways.
Some highlights: Bill Clinton reveals why Hillary encouraged him to start playing again in his late twenties; Jack Nicholson explains how he began to play golf in his forties and became good enough to shoot a sixty-five; and Ben Crenshaw reminisces about his close relationship with Harvey Penick and about winning the 1995 Masters just days after serving as a pallbearer at Penick's funeral.
At times poignant, illuminating, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Leaderboard is sure to inspire and capture the imaginations of golf fans everywhere.
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About the Author
Amy Alcott has won thirty-two professional tournaments worldwide, including the U.S. Women’s Open, and is a member of the World Golf and LPGA Halls of Fame. She has won the Kraft Nabisco Championship three times—an accomplishment she shares with only two other women—and five major championships. Alcott lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website at AmyAlcott.com.
Don Wade is a sportswriter for The Commercial Appeal (Memphis). A native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star, Don lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife and three sons.
Read an Excerpt
I've known Jane blalock since I joined the LPGA in 1975. At that time she was one of the biggest stars on our Tour, having been Rookie of the Year in 1969 after a fine amateur career that saw her win the New Hampshire Amateur five times and the New England Amateur in 1968. In the course of her career, she won twenty-seven tournaments, although she never won a major, finishing second in the LPGA Championship twice. In 1972, she won the inaugural Colgate Dinah Shore Winner's Circle, which later was designated as a major. One of the most consistent players in LPGA history, Jane made 299 straight cuts from 1969 until 1980.
In 1972, the LPGA's Executive Board, reacting to accusations from players, charged Jane with cheating, claiming that she mismarked her ball on the green. Twenty-nine LPGA players signed a petition calling for her suspension, and the Executive Committee ultimately suspended her for one year. Jane sued and won a temporary injunction that allowed her to continue playing. She went on to lead the Tour with five wins that year, despite the incredible pressure she was under. Eventually, the courts found the LPGA in violation of antitrust laws.After winning twice in 1985, Jane retired from active competition, became a stockbroker, and started a golf management company. Her company started the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women program, and she played a key role in establishing the Legends Tour for LPGA players ages forty-five and older.
We visited at the World Golf Village during the 2007 Handa Cup, a Legends Tour competition between the United States and an international team. I'm happy to report that our team won. We began bytalking about her decision to retire after the 1985 season.
* * *
Coming into the 1985 season, I had gone three years without a victory, which was very hard to take. I didn't want to just be out there to play if I wasn't able to win. But earlier in the year I won the Kemper Open at Kaanapali, and then I won the Mazda in Japan. I shot a 64 on a legitimate par-73 course, which was my career low round. At the awards ceremony, I thought, It just doesn't get any better than this. But I also recall the feeling that my competitive desire was slipping away. I made a conscious decision at that point that I was going to retire. I wanted to go out with a win.
Was it like a spiritual awakening, an epiphany?
It was somewhat spiritual, I guess. I just really knew it was time. I've never regretted the decision.
Is that when you started your company?
No. Over the years I had made friends with a lot of people in the investment world, and the people at Merrill Lynch in Boston had told me that if I ever wanted to work as a stockbroker, they'd have a job for me. I started on the retail side and then moved over to institutional sales. I enjoyed it and was a stockbroker for five years. In that time, I played in a lot of local charitable events and outings, and I just thought they could be produced better. Also, back then more women were entering the workforce, so it seemed like a good opportunity. We started with four or five very good clients, but it really took off when I convinced Jan Thompson at Mazda to sponsor the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women. The Legends Tour came after that.
How has golf influenced your life?
There are a few ways. First, I never gave up on the golf course. I made 299 cuts, which I'm very proud of. If I shot an 80 in the first round, I wouldn't allow myself to give up. I felt that if you gave up once, you could give up at any time. Golf taught me perseverance. That's what enabled me to win. I'm the same way in business. If someone tells me an idea can never work, it just adds fuel to the fire. It makes me all the more determined to make it work. Second, golf taught me the importance of planning. You can't just show up and expect to play well. You have to have worked on every aspect of your game. In business, you have to have all the answers for any question you might be asked. Finally, you must be able to adapt as conditions change. That's true in golf, in business, and in life.
Was reinventing yourself as a businessperson scary?
It was exhilarating. I knew golf so well, but going to Merrill Lynch was a completely new world. I was forty years old and moving to a new city. I had to get a whole new wardrobe and make a new set of friends. But I needed new challenges. I needed to get out of my comfort zone. And your status changes because you're no longer recognized as a star golfer. It's kind of a shock when you realize that people don't know who you are or what you did in your former life. You have to deal with developing a whole new persona.
Are there any people you'd like to spend time with, not necessarily on the golf course but just to get to know?
Mikhail Baryshnikov would be the first name that comes to mind. He's the greatest male ballet dancer and I think probably the ultimate athlete. He was just beautiful to watch. The second person would be Helen Turley, who has been at the center of the American winemaking industry. She's been very successful in a field that has traditionally been dominated by men. I'm a wine collector, so I'd love to just sit down with her and try some of her favorite wines and listen to her explain why they're so special.
What was your most exciting moment on the golf course?
I have three, and they're all equally special. The first was winning the Triple Crown at Mission Hills. I beat Judy Rankin and Joanne Carner in a playoff. It was the only time my parents saw me win on tour. The second was winning the Kemper in 1985. I had never worked harder and was frustrated. I had come close to retiring a couple of times, so it ended a slump and unlocked the handcuffs. The third was winning my last tournament, because it allowed me to retire on a high note. Winning is a lonely experience, but it's the only reason I ever played. I never cared about the money. Winning was everything.How did you get through the controversy when you were accused of cheating? That must have been incredibly difficult.
I'm a very resilient, positive person. I believe in always looking at the sun, because that way you never see the shadows. I also had tremendous support from my family and friends and from the press.
How did it change you?
It made me stronger, but it also made me less trusting, which is not a good thing. But it didn't make me a harder person, which could easily have happened. What was scary, besides the charges themselves, was the fact that it snowballed. It dragged on for three or four years. It's interesting that I've received apologies from many of the players who made the charges, admitting they were wrong. I can take some comfort in that.
* * *
Jane's life is proof that golf gives you many tools to reinvent yourself. She was always a great competitor, but she showed a lot of heart when she battled the allegations of cheating, which is about as bad an allegation as a player can face in golf -- a sport that prides itself on being a game of honor and sportsmanship. Winning five tournaments in a year when she was under so much scrutiny says a lot about her both as a person and as a player. When I think about Jane, I remember a quote from Winston Churchill: "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never -- in nothing great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honour and sense."
Copyright © 2009 by Amy Alcott
Table of Contents
Jane Blalock 1
Bill Clinton 7
Ben Crenshaw 15
Kenny G. 25
Dennis Hopper 35
Steve Kroft 43
Leslie Moonves 51
Jim Nantz 57
Jack Nicholson 67
Lorena Ochoa 75
Don Ohlmeyer 81
Donna Orender 93
Dottie Pepper 99
Kyra Phillips 107
Rex Pickett 113
Dennis Quaid 123
Pam Shriver 129
Annika Sorenstam 137
Ken Venturi 145
Robert Wagner 155
Karrie Webb 163
Sandy Weill 169
Jerry Weintraub 177
Tom Werner 187
Jerry West 195
Jack Whitaker 205
John Williams 213
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am not quite sure why I expected this book to be hysterically funny. Maybe because, along with fishing, in golf there tend to be quite a few ¿the one that got away¿ stories that can be pretty amusing. Or maybe because the last golf book I read was ¿Embedded Balls¿ by Peter Jacobsen and Jack Sheehan ¿ that had me rolling. Nonetheless, there were some great anecdotes in ¿The Leaderboard¿ from some big names, golf wise and no. One notable laugh out loud comment was from Kyra Phillips of CNN:Amy Alcott is asking who Phillips would love to play golf with, and after Bobby Jones (which at least 50% of the people interviewed said), her next answer was, ¿Jesus Christ, I¿d like to see if he¿d take a mulligan. What would Jesus do? That¿s the question.¿Alcott, an LPGA Hall of Fame member, has assembled a nice collection of golf stories from notables like Bill Clinton, (who nearly everyone else in the book seems to have played with), Dennis Hopper, Kenny G., Jack Nicholson, Robert Wagner¿and then a few (!) people who were among the best of the best in the golf world.There are many commonalities to the stories¿most of those interviewed were introduced to the game early in life by a family member. I fall into that category as well¿from my grandfather on down, it¿s been practically a family rule that you at least try to get into golf. (Which I never really thought about until reading this book. There¿s something about golf, the time to talk, the life lessons learned that just don¿t seem to be there in other sports.) After her interview with Steve Kroft, Alcott brings up a quote from the Talmud. ¿Whoever teaches his son teaches not alone his son but also his son¿s son and so on to the end of generations.¿Another similarity is that¿sigh. Nearly everyone mentions that Tiger Woods is the world¿s greatest player, a phenomenon, shouldn¿t be able to do the things he does, and on, and on and on¿Not that I don¿t agree, but by the end of the book, (and by the end of any golf telecast where he¿s even in the same state as the tournament), the praise gets so old that it¿s all I can do to not change the channel. Moving on!From Kenny G., ¿I began to realize through golf that sometimes you can¿t get it all together. Sometimes you hit a perfect drive and it lands in a gopher hole.¿From Don Ohlmeyer, ¿¿golf is very much like life. It teaches you to win gracefully and lose graciously.¿And a great anecdote from producer Jerry Weintraub. While he was golfing with George Bush (41) at Sherwood in Los Angeles, ¿As a courtesy, he invited President Reagan to join us, and he accepted, which was a surprise. We teed off at Sherwood around seven, and early in the round, one of President Reagan¿s shoes broke. I asked him what size he wore and he said he didn¿t know. He hadn¿t bought a pair of shoes in forty years.¿Though I can¿t say that ¿The Leaderboard¿ stands out dramatically from the other golf books that I¿ve read, I can say that Amy Alcott seems to have an easy way of drawing her interviewees out, setting up the kind of stories you might hear while on the 19th tee with a frosty beverage in hand. Of course the names in this book aren¿t exactly the ones you might find at your local course, and that¿s what makes it the most enjoyable.
I've always been a fan of Amy Alcott anyway, so when I saw she'd written a book I knew I had to read it. The Leaderboard does not disappoint.Alcott doesn't write about her own life, or her own career, though either subject would be fascinating and well worth reading about. Instead, she interviews 27 people about the game they all love. Of course, in the process, we learn a lot about the people she's interviewing, and a little bit about Amy herself.You'll learn things in this book. You'll learn that tennis star Pam Shriver is the women's champion at Brentwood Country Club. You'll find out how golf helps to calm actors when they're working, and you'll learn a bit more about golfers off the course. These aren't hard-hitting interviews, but the do give a slice of life look at some very famous people who all share a passion for the game of golf.