"The ball's in your court, dear," says Scarinzi with a smirk.
"Why don't you run with that one," says Pepper.
Scarinzi makes a vague allusion to a dark Italian bistro before they burst into a fit of giggles. Between the ropes Pepper and Scarinzi comport themselves with such sterile professionalism it is impossible to tell they're an item. Off the course they go together like a wink and a smile.
For example, on Friday evening Scarinzi begged out of an interview, saying earnestly, "I'm sorry, but the dog needs to be walked." Pepper is a noted animal enthusiast, and the dog in question is her 75-pound chow chow, Furman, who is driven to nearly every tournament in Pepper's Chevy Tahoe with the 4 MY DOG vanity plates. Meanwhile, Scarinzi is a typical sports junkie, and he spent most of the Classic exchanging complicated sign language with gallery members so as to keep abreast of the Yankees' playoff series with the Texas Rangers. Pepper, too, has been known to pepper on-course TV announcers with requests for college football scores. "You should see us fight over the sports pages in the morning," she says with one of her loud, throaty laughs that too few people have had the chance to enjoy.
"Ralph is so good for her," says Inkster, who employed Scarinzi for three seasons and is one of Pepper's closest friends on the tour. "He gets her to enjoy life a little more, and he gets her away from the game, which she needs." Pepper agrees. "My ex-husband, I never would have done something like this," she says of her trip to Manhattan, which included seeing The Phantom of the Opera and—at guess whose request—a stop at Mickey Mantle's restaurant for a nightcap. "We would play a round, then talk about it, then go hit balls for 12 hours."
This is not to say that Pepper has lost her enthusiasm for the game. "Golf is in her blood," says her mother, Lynn. "It has been since she was a girl, and I imagine it always will be."
Dottie took up golf the same year as did her father, and from the beginning they egged each other on. "It was always a lot of little bets," says Don. "Who would hit a chip closer or who would drive the ball farther." Their games were playful, but with a strong competitive undercurrent. Don was once a minor league first baseman of ,such promise that he appeared on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1968 with Johnny Bench, Mike Torrez and a couple of other can't-miss prospects. Pepper had a cup of coffee with the Detroit Tigers, but with Norm Cash entrenched at first, he was traded to the Montreal Expos and retired in 1969. "Dot-tie's development had a lot to do with her father," says Yossuf, "and my own feeling is that she saw that he came up short and she wasn't going to."
There is no telling how many stories have been written about Pepper's fierce on-course demeanor, which is her defining trait. "And it's always exaggerated or misunderstood," says Pepper. She is still smarting from the going-over she received, mostly from the British tabloids, at the 1994 Solheim Cup, where she was alleged to have gloated over a missed putt by England's Laura Davies. Once and for all, Pepper would like to set the record straight: On the par-5 3rd hole during a Saturday four-ball match, Pepper and partner Brandie Burton had to scramble to make pars. Davies was just off the green in 2 and looked as if she were going to put the Europeans 2 up after only three holes. But she missed her five-footer for birdie and halved the hole, at which point, says Pepper, "I looked right in Brandie's eyes and said, 'Yes! We're still in the match.' It had nothing to do with Laura, really. I was just excited we weren't in big trouble so early on." The tabs made Pepper out to be a cross between Tori Spelling and Mike Tyson, and it all got dredged up at the Solheim Cup three weeks ago.
Speaking more generally, Pepper says, "I don't think Hogan or Nicklaus were ever criticized for demanding excellence from themselves, so why should I be?" No doubt the answer lies in old notions about what is and isn't ladylike behavior.
"Golf can be dull to watch and dull to write about," says Lynn Pepper. "Dottie is a very pretty girl, she's exciting and passionate, and she's a winner. I think because of that, no matter what, she will always be the center of attention."