When she mentions her artistic side, Alcott usually mentions her mother in the same breath. Alcott's father, an orthodontist, encouraged her creativity, but it was her mother who convinced her that anything could be art—conversation, clothing, food, even golf. As a teenage golf prodigy, Alcott was granted rare playing privileges at exclusive Riviera Country Club. She spent hours on the club's secluded practice hole, learning to shape golf shots the way a sculptor shapes clay. It is no coincidence, friends say, that Alcott's game lost its luster when her mother died four years ago. Amy's father had died in 1981, and Alcott suddenly realized that she had been "steamrolling professional golf for 17 years" and that maybe she was tired and "a little burnt out," and maybe she should have gone to college instead of turning pro at 19, and....
But her canvases tell it better. Several are hung on the walls, unframed. Others clutter the floor of an upstairs hallway. The work consists of great violent splashes of color with objects glued on: Q-tips, paint tubes, golf tees, dried pasta. "I tend to paint when I'm angry about something," Alcott says, taking a canvas from the floor and turning it several ways as an act of assessment. "I buy premixed house paint that nobody's picked up. Then I go up on my roof and literally throw things around.
"I think I was upset or confused about something," she says of the work she's holding, "and my unconscious self knew that I was only going to feel like this for a little while, and then I was probably going to be back to my spirited self. I needed to do this to get it out of my system."
How long, one asks, has she been painting?
Alcott stares at the canvas. "About four years."
Reconciling the golfer with the abstract expressionist would take more than an afternoon. Tournament golf has been at the center of Alcott's existence since she was nine, and it is a life of practice routines, travel itineraries and tee times. The golf swing itself is a miracle of precision and minute tolerances. At her best—when winning the 1980 U.S. Women's Open by nine strokes or when winning the Dinah in 1991 for victory number 29—Alcott has been able to visit that place where conscious thought bails out and the subconscious starts playing. "And that is a very healthy place," she says, "but it's also extremely structured." Climbing another flight of stairs, Alcott throws open a door and steps into sunshine. Her rooftop is a flat rectangle—a stage?—from which she can look down on other rooftops and upon which the gazes of residents higher up the ridge fall unobstructed. The roof is where she throws her paint, although on this day there are no cans of paint, no canvases—just a rubber doggy toy that she predicts will end up on some future work.
"I think this is the nicest place in the house," she says, watching a car glide past her front walk. "A friend was going to give me a hundred bucks to come up here and paint nude."
"I said, I'll do it!"
(Later Alcott says, "I want to come back in my next life as a 'Solid Gold' dancer. Remember that show?" One is reminded how much her facetiousness has contributed to women's golf and how joyless her quest for the LPGA Hall of Fame has been made by the requirement that a player with two or more major championships must also win more than 29 tournaments for automatic inclusion. This year the closest that Alcott has come to winning was a tie for fifth in March at the Ping/Welch's Championship in Tucson.)