Dottie Pepper: My sister, she did play a little bit of golf nothing competitive. I mean, I think the Hansel and Gretel Junior Championship at the club might have been the biggest year. She was never a fan of hot weather, she magnificent skier. And just never, never really loved being in the summer heat. But she did it. She stuck by me through that whole experience of turning professional, getting my car, she went to the qualifying school with me. And we had some pretty amazing memories. And she also got to make a little good chunk of change during spring break because she would caddy for me flyer back down or whatever tournaments were over her spring break, she caddy for me. So that was a good way for her to kind of get her little college funds established.
Mackenzie Mack: That’s awesome. I have a younger sister and she supported me playing as well. So I understand the sister bond.
Dottie Pepper: But the sacrifices they made. If you have a sister who’s successful and there’s to be a focus, sometimes, you know, they get to spend their summer break when you’re going to play tournaments. And that’s not always a great thing, but certainly appreciative of her sacrifice.
Mackenzie Mack: Exactly. So to the majors, so two time at Dinosaur so that must be your course, right?
Dottie Pepper: Well, I guess for courses, but it did change over the years. It’s changed a lot of it over some of the players who have come before us tend to say that they how they could take it over the corner at number nine at Mission Hills. And it’s like those trees are 60 feet tall, you don’t hit that far. That’s because the golf course changed. The trees grew over time, but it’ll be somewhat I don’t know, I guess, to see a clip you played there for the last time this year will be a little bit a little sad, but I’m so excited for the future of the event.
Mackenzie Mack: Absolutely. I think growth is great and the LPGA, and so that first major, how was it?
Dottie Pepper: It was a big relief for me because I played so well. The previous year, I finished third on the money list in 91 and hadn’t won a golf tournament. So (a) I played a lot, (b) I played a lot of good golf and just never crashed through the upper echelon. It was a year that Macmillan had an outstanding season won the LPGA Championship and the US Open. I think she might even have won the world championship down in Australia to finish the year out but 92 ended up being my year but it was a huge relief and to beat Julie Inkster at a playoff to burning last hole to get into the playoff, all of those things just lined up beautifully. And it was sort of a reconfirmation for me.
Mackenzie Mack: Well, that’s great. I’ve played that course, it’s no easy feat that is amazing to be able to do that twice. So for some of our listeners looking to play, like I said before, what are some tips that you would give them to be a professional major winning player?
Dottie Pepper: Well, you know, I was a youngster with my eyes in the stars, and a father who played major league baseball, and didn’t play a lot of games but he did make it to the majors. And I learned a lot of things about where dad came up a little short, and he was free to share those, freely shared those with me. And among them, were that, you know, even if you’re the best in your state, then you’re one of 50. And you need to be exceptional to go down this road. And especially if you’re going to be one who’s going to expect quick results. There are loads and loads of stories about people who were or later to start the game and those who have gone through a long process to become a champion. But especially if you’re wired like I am, and patients really isn’t your middle name, you better know that. You need to be exceptional to go down this road. And I think also that it’s not necessarily easy, the rewards are phenomenal in so many ways. But it’s also, it’s your profession, it’s your job and you hear people all the time saying, well, I wish I had taken it a little more seriously. Because it is, it’s a total commitment to being a professional athlete.
Mackenzie Mack: Absolutely. And how important is a coach to a professional athlete?
Dottie Pepper: I think it’s important to have the right coach, I think it’s important to have an open dialogue, an easy communication, and somebody who understands the way you learn. I was really fortunate that my first real teacher George Pulver knew me. He knew that a plus personality that I wanted to see results quickly. And he got the ability to talk me down a little bit and bring me back into realizing that it’s a step by step process to becoming successful and to know that there’s not just, life’s not to spark off but there are so many more elements that really need to be in place for you to be successful as a professional.
Mackenzie Mack: I think that’s key, right. I think I’m glad you mentioned that to have, it’s not just to have a coach, it is to have the right one and that understands you and that’s why we have so many different ones, right.
Dottie Pepper: Correct.
Mackenzie Mack: And the one that that works for you. Glad you brought that up and let’s get into Mr. Pulver. Because your book, your letters to a future champion is out, and it’s letters from him to you?
Dottie Pepper: Yeah, so he was a founding member of the Northeastern New York PGA section and had retired when we first started working back in the early 80s. And I knew him and his wife Martha from being around Brookhaven, which he designed for my grandmother was a member where I’ve played my first 18 holes of golf, not on the short course here in Saratoga Springs, but there’s about 30 minutes away. And I just remember being around them knowing that he built the golf course that he was still while retired still had his fingers in the daily happenings because he was also the agronomist included in addition to being the architect. But he was a golf professional of either were kind of revered in this area because he did so much in the game. At one point he was the head professional at McGregor Lynx, which was less than a mile from where I grew up. The Saratoga Golf Club, which was across town, it’s nine hole private course and it was also had professional at the state run facility. So he was an amazing man did really everything in golf. And he taught me so much, and it wasn’t just on the range, he preferred to be their hands on the range, but also to leave me with things that I could keep hands on for a very long time. But he would share things immediately after lessons. He would go home and start typing about things that we had done on the range, reminders about what the lesson was leaving reading assignments, and most of those never hit the post office. He would drive this little Toyota car three miles from his house up to mine and slide it into the mailbox and there would be a type letter.
And often like I said, I’ll book a reading assignment from his golf library. And it was a pretty amazing relationship. So I had over 100 pieces of mail from him that started with that back from 1981. So actually from 1980, going all the way back to when he passed away in 1986. And they really didn’t even start hitting the US Postal Service until I went to college in the fall of 1983, he started sending stuff down to my PO Box 27934 from a University. Never remember, it never forget that number. It was important to him to put things down on paper, he was a cub reporter for the Saratoga newspaper, as a youngster coming out of Albany Business College after we returned from World War One. And he preferred to communicate in follow up, final fashion, strike it typewriter.
Mackenzie Mack: I think that is amazing. And that you kept every letter to put it together in this book. And for millennials like me, it’s almost unheard of for a letter, right, like my sister just the other day, addressed the letter wrong and address it to ourselves. So it’s like unheard of nowadays to even send a letter and take that time to put the message and the thought and energy into that. So that is amazing.
Dottie Pepper: I think what was also through the years I had them, I had the letters bunched by subject when I was playing. And shortly after I finished playing, I put them all in chronological order. And so I got to see my journey more. So I would go in and reference what I was looking for as a player. But now, post playing, it became a life more of a life journey for me to see how our relationship evolved. But what I was not prepared for that when Mr. Culver passed in 1986. His family left me a portion of his golf library. And they also left me this, he never liked me listening or watching or reading anything about golf mechanics. He knew how I best learned and but that never stopped him from being nonstop curious about the golf swing and everything that went into being a complete player down to the mental preparation.
So he didn’t want me reading that in magazines, I could read about the people and the places and in competitions, but not the mechanics of anything, he just wanted his touch on it. And didn’t want to be on teaching things. I think was probably even more important to him. But when I started the process of writing this book, I opened up a file folder that was that forbidden material. The kids gave it to me, but I never touched it. And I think that you know, maybe 35 years later, it was time to say okay, let’s look at what’s in here. And it was most of what I had thought would be in there. The first article goes back to 1966, with his graphemes in the margins, things that are underlined things that he liked things that he didn’t. But what was also in that beat up blue folder was every letter I wrote him, and it was just a flood. I had as much as the relationship meant to me, I didn’t really realize that it was very much a two way street.
Mackenzie Mack: That’s so awesome. Will your responses be in the book too, or just the ones he sent to you?
Dottie Pepper: They’re all there.
Mackenzie Mack: They’re all?
Dottie Pepper: They’re all there. So you can see how my handwriting evolved through the time. How I first reached out to him through his daughter. It’s pretty magical stuff.
Mackenzie Mack: So what was your favorite letter? Like, what’s the most memorable letter?
Dottie Pepper: There were quite a few. A lot of them were not necessarily all about the mechanics of golf or the lessons that we had spoken about or things that we had changed or clubs that we were looking to change to, but more about what it took to have the real grip to play professional golf and succeed at book to play amateur golf at that time and succeed at it. And he pulled things from Sophocles to Samson. I mean, they were all over the lot. So I think those were the favorite parts of my letters that he sent me that were very much that he had researched it to put things into them that would be long lasting for me. But I think the final letter that the capsule came from his son George Jr. is something that I wasn’t prepared for what I found because it came to me just as we were getting ready to get this book into the queue to be up on the printer we printed in Barcelona, Missouri had to be in by the 28th of February. I got this letter on the 26th. And it was supposed to have been addressed to me to get me at Furman, I never got this letter. And it was George’s daughter Madeline that had this, as she was going through more files she helped with all the Pulver children helped a lot doing this book. But she found this letter that her brother had written to me at Furman that never made it to me. And it was George Jr. talking about the relationship and how they were so worried about their dad when there’s mom had passed. And then it was sort of I became the medicine that the doctors couldn’t find the right touch for him. He had gotten pretty blue, you lose your partner of your really your entire adult life. And that letter, I was on my way over to shoot the trailer, voice the trailer to do book that had to be and we had to add 208 pages. And I now all of a sudden have two more pages that need to be put into this book because it’s not complete without this letter.
Mackenzie Mack: Oh, my goodness. I can’t wait to read it.
Dottie Pepper: Yeah, it was pretty powerful exclamation point to the letter.
Mackenzie Mack: Absolutely. And how much of what he wrote to you is still helpful today to juniors and players today?
Dottie Pepper: That was the point. That’s really why I did the book. It was a COVID project. That was something I wanted to have some really positive come out of what was a pretty negative time it, that book got me through the entire return to golf on CBS through the summer of 2020. Because that was my focus. And it rolled into the early part of 21. So we got into the mechanics of actually putting the book together with a designer, and coming up with a print program. But I really did this book, because I wanted to be able to share those lessons with the next generations and have them in sort of a format that I did, I could actually put my hands on them. So it was part of the business plan. It was part of the creative plan to put this book together the way it was put together. So they could take those lessons and continue to really pay them forward.
Mackenzie Mack: That’s amazing. And I know that it’s an audio book for people like me, who read very slow.
Dottie Pepper: There is an audio book version out, yes.
Mackenzie Mack: Well, that’s good. That’s amazing. I can’t wait. So you talked about working on CBS and transitioning from golf to broadcasting.
Dottie Pepper: Yeah.
Mackenzie Mack: Where did you decide to do that? You know, how did you say okay, now I want to be on TV?
Dottie Pepper: I always told Judy Rankin who was a dear, dear friend and a mentor to me that at some point I wanted her job. You know, I wanted my dad always say you know that you have to have backup planet. And part of my, in the back of my mind was that I wanted to get into broadcasting at some point. I didn’t care if I was doing a local affiliate doing Weekend Television for sports. I just really wanted to be able to do that. And Judy fortunately pushed me sort of under that exit plan pretty early on and just knew in 2004, that my body was not going to hold up for me to play golf the way I expected to play the way expected to prepare, and had a few key people go to bat for me and ended up on my feet a Golf Channel on NBC pretty quickly, thankfully.
Mackenzie Mack: And there’s not very many women in the broadcasting space. So you’re trailblazing that. And so what can, what do you think the industry can do to make that more common, not so one off?
Dottie Pepper: I think it’s becoming more common. You look at what Judy did. And it was really breaking not only glass ceilings, but grass ceilings, Mary Porter King also did some work for NBC as well. Mary Brian had had time at ESPN and at CBS as well, covering LPGA events. But I think the more women just stay persistent about it and not try to be anything that they are not be prepared. Don’t and go in there as an equal. I’ve I talked about what you know, that was a huge thing for Judy, just talk about what you know, I know golf, you know, golf, you talk about the things that you know, and that is it’s being really true about who you are, about what you know. And I think also not being afraid to really chase it forward. Give the people that are coming up with that want to do what you’re doing the opportunities by talking to them, spending time with them, giving them maybe a way to navigate a few potholes that you may have found in yourself and we’re not going to pave it over smoothly. But you have to let them maybe avoid some of the deeper ones to really mentoring and mentee. It’s an important part of how I think women do move forward in this industry. But I and you probably have seen this when you’ve been in the in the compound areas, even in the NFL, there are more women working in those compounds than ever before and they are really, really good at what they do. They’re the best at what they do.
Mackenzie Mack: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well thank you so much for everything that you’ve done for the game, true leader, true trailblazer and looking forward to the more you have to come because it’s not, you’re not done yet?
Dottie Pepper: I hope not. I hope not. There’s still more things I’d like to be able to, you know, keep moving forward, I think you’re a part of being a professional to no matter where you are, if you’re playing, if you’re working in broadcasting, if you’re working anywhere is to continue to try to improve, not be so hard on yourself that you can’t make the difficult call when it comes time to do that. But always be trying to just get better every day.
Mackenzie Mack: One step at a time, right?
Dottie Pepper: Correct, absolutely. And one step, well, there might be you know, every once in a while you might be received, but then you take a bigger step forward.
Mackenzie Mack: Okay. So for some of our listeners wanting to play on tour, I’ve done, I’ve played a little bit mini tour golf, and it’s expensive. What advice would you give to kind of navigate the cost of playing professional golf?
Dottie Pepper: Well, there are economic realities to playing professional golf, as you mentioned, and part of it is not cheap. Having I think it really does help if you have a solid vehicle, I spent a lot of time driving, solid safe vehicle, and a network of friends, people to stay with. It’s also a safety thing for especially for women being on that road on that dream. I stayed in a lot of private housing when I was coming up through the system, and it did help but have a budget. If you have to put together a package to put sponsors together, do it the right way, come up with a great business plan, support yourself, know that you’re worthy of investing in you, like treat yourself as a business, I think is a big part of it. But also know that if you have to have a second job, you have to have a second job, it’s okay, you’re living, you’re trying to do what, what you want to do, you’re living out your dream. But I also know that there are other support systems, what’s going on with the Epson tour now, with the players that are going to get those cards, having some money in their back pocket from Epson is a huge thing to be able to get from any Tour Golf to the LPGA Tour. But have a budget, be realistic about gas prices and hotel prices and plan ahead. Plan ahead is a really big, big part of being able to build a budget, build a forecast, and maybe take some heat off you as a professional. So that five foot or at the last hole, maybe not quite so terrifying. There was a really good piece written a few years ago by Beth and Nichols at golf week. And she took Stacy Lewis who’s one of the best players on the LPGA Tour. Stacy also has one of her degrees is in finance. And she’s smart girl and she laid up everything that it costs her to live all year long to maintain a home to have a car on the road, the insurance, what it taught costs for meals, everything that you would imagine to be a professional because there’s a home based situation and there’s also an add-on a playing sort of situation. So she blended it all together. And it was a really, it can be a bit of a stunner to see how much it can actually cost. I know when I started. If I wanted to not, I would say travel pretty comfortably. Not stay in private housing every week. Not be really high. Remember, Terry Joe Meyers. She ate one in almost an entire year ate at McDonald’s. How do you do that and play golf and stay nutritionally up for the whole season? But she didn’t have enough money to go, really do anything else. So I had a budget. And in 1988, it was going to cost me $60,000 and I had half of that. So if you extrapolate out where we are now, even if you’re wise about it, it’s not going to be cheap.
Mackenzie Mack: No, not at all. So this is one question I always get is, you are able to be successful and succeed and win. But at what point do you decide, I need to transition to something else because it is a lot of money that you’re giving out and expanding in. Do you have any advice for somebody that’s kind of like okay, I’ve been out here for five, six years, haven’t really gotten over the hump, do I keep going, or do I not?
Dottie Pepper: I think it’s, you gotta have that heart talk to yourself. Is my soul still in this? And if it is, you’re gonna I believe, you’ll find a way if you’re wavering and other things have gotten your interest, then keep your hand in golf maybe you come back later. There’s also a lot of those stories too that said, Oh, I know. I went away and I got this other job where I paid attention to what my heart was feeling over here. But golf was still really at the core of it. It was still burning and I came back. Don’t ever shut the doors.
Mackenzie Mack: Right. And I think that’s what is so good about the sport that we chose, right. There’s no really an exploration for our sport, you can always come back and play. There’s other so many tours and so many avenues, unlike any other sport, where there is kind of an exploration. So I think that’s the beauty of our game.
Dottie Pepper: I agree, it’s a life timer in so many ways. And it doesn’t. It’s not just about playing the game. It’s whether it’s tournament organization, and whether it’s teaching, whether it’s cool, whatever it is, there are so many avenues off what we’ve come up knowing and none of them have expiration dates.
Mackenzie Mack: Right. And that’s exactly why we decided to do this show. It’s kind of set some light on all opportunities in the game outside of teaching and working on a golf course. What else can you do and still be connected to the game?
Dottie Pepper: So I think too, we look at the opportunities that are in agronomy today. There are no shut doors if you don’t allow them to be shut.
Mackenzie Mack: Okay, so on the show, we have our quick nine.
Dottie Pepper: Sure.
Mackenzie Mack: So I’m going to give you nine questions and whatever comes to your mind, say it.
Dottie Pepper: Got it.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 01): Who are the three other players in your dream Foursome?
Dottie Pepper: It would be my dad. It would be Sunday by sterols, who I looked up to so much as a junior in Winston Churchill, who was my favorite, favorite of all rural districts.
Mackenzie Mack: I’ve heard that you like to cook?
Dottie Pepper: I do.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 02): If those three are coming to your house for dinner, what are you making them?
Dottie Pepper: I’m gonna make them my favorite meal. It was my mom’s marinated like steak. Probably a little side of risotto, and whatever is fresh from the farmers market.
Mackenzie Mack: I also looked up and saw that you are a big fan of wine and have a collection.
Dottie Pepper: I do.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 03): Let’s guess how many have you collected?
Dottie Pepper: Well, it’s a combination of my husband’s mini collection, my mini collection when we got married. So this is coming up on 12 years. The rule is you have to have a glass from the bottle. Okay, we’re in the 1000s.
Mackenzie Mack: Really?
Dottie Pepper: Yeah, it’s on all blow, it’s up with hot glue. And it’s actually the wall as you go down into our basement. So on rainy days, more folks work to get taken from the basket put on the wall.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 04): What bottle of wine are you opening up at the next celebration?
Dottie Pepper: I’m a big fan of smaller winery out in California by the name of Robert Foley, he and his wife is a super small operation. They are two of, I think six people that they have on a full time payroll. And it would be a bottle of Bob full agreement.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 05): What do you do right before broadcast to get ready?
Dottie Pepper: Last thing I usually do is visit the girls room because you can’t take all that equipment off in the middle of the day. It’s a real challenge. So that’s my last trip to the girl’s room.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 06): Okay, what’s your latest binge watch?
Dottie Pepper: I’m a big fan of the crown. I love the crown.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 07): Your go to snack on the golf course?
Dottie Pepper: Lately I’ve been going to bars made by a company in Detroit. All natural three hours of energy, gets you through most of the show.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 08): What sporting event would you love to broadcast that you haven’t yet?
Dottie Pepper: I actually would like to be able to call a ski race. Go to call the Hong Kong.
Mackenzie Mack (Question 09): And last question. In one word, what does golf mean to you?
Dottie Pepper: Opportunity. I think there’s it is limitless what golf can do for you and what you can do for golf too, by the way.
Mackenzie Mack: Absolutely. I love that word, because it’s given me so much as well. And so definitely opportunity. So before we close, let the people know where they can find you. Where can they get this amazing book?
Dottie Pepper: Well, my book is, it was a self-published project. So it’s on my own website dottiepepper.net. But it’s also available at the North shire bookstore in Saratoga Springs, brick and mortar but they also have their own website northshire.com at PGA Tour Superstore, so it’s been an amazing partner as well. So they’re all at all of those locations.
Mackenzie Mack: And I think of some of the proceeds goes to a charity, is that correct?
Dottie Pepper: It does, 10% of all sales go to the Saratoga Warhorse which Mr. Pulver being a World War One veteran, I wanted to really reach out and have something that was here in Saratoga that was part of his life and the Saratoga Warhorse provides without costs including travel, it is rehabilitative therapy through off Warhorse to help people who have come back from serving us, keeping us free with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mackenzie Mack: Well, I’ve even more of a reason to go get the book.
Dottie Pepper: We’ve done some, we’ve made an impact, which was really, really important to me to be able to give back.
Mackenzie Mack: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Dottie. And thank you all for listening. Be sure to follow the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen, so you don’t miss an episode. I’m Mackenzie Mack, and I’ll talk to you next time on “Getting to the Green”.