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 gol 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 or 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 some thing 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 Rob-bins 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.' "