Even though they've been married for less than a year and make a cute couple, always kissing and giggling and holding hands when they're together, don't look for Rick Price and Melinda Daniels on the Newlywed Game. As aspiring tour pros, they seldom find themselves in the same part of the country, so you can forget about the same TV studio.
Price, 32, is trying to make it on the Buy.com tour. Daniels, 27, is a rookie on the LPGA tour. They spend about 35 weeks a year at different tournaments away from their town house in Jupiter, Fla. "Everyone jokes that we should have a perfect marriage because we never see each other," says Daniels. In reality their marriage works because they share a common goal: succeeding at the highest level of the game.
Price, who grew up in Allentown, Pa., and attended Methodist College, in Fayetteville, N.C., for a year in the mid-'80s, has played more tours than the Rolling Stones during his 13 years as a pro. In addition to the Buy.com, on which he earned a meager $5,508 in 20 starts in 1999, he has played tournaments on the Gold Coast, Golden Bear, Hooters, Space Coast and Teardrop tours. He has entered the PGA Tour's Q school each of the last 11 years but has made it to the final stage only twice and has never earned his card.
Daniels is from Lodi, Calif., and a '94 graduate of Stanford, where she played on the golf team. She has also struggled at Q school, having failed to gain exempt status five times. However, she won a pair of Futures tour events last season and finished sixth on that tour's money list ($22,222), which was enough to give her a berth in the final stage of LPGA qualifying. Although Daniels—with Price caddying for her—came in 51st, she did earn a conditional LPGA card and has gotten into five events. Her best finish has been a 22nd, at last week's Corning Classic. "The struggles that we've endured and shared have given us a common bond," Price says. "We're not rich, but we're happy, and we're doing what we want to do."
Price and Daniels met, appropriately, at a driving range in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1995. "On our first date we went to the beach, and we have been together since," says Daniels. They were married on Dec. 18 in Lodi and this year have already gone long stretches without seeing each other. "It's hard being away all of the time," says Daniels. "It's different than when we were dating. When you're married, you're supposed to be together."
Their most difficult separation was an eight-week stretch last winter. On Feb. 4, Daniels left Florida to play in the Los Angeles Women's Championship but failed to qualify. Instead of going home, she flew to Hawaii and the LPGA's next tournament. When the tour moved on to Australia, Daniels remained in Hawaii, where the tour would return the following week. From there she went to an LPGA event in Tucson and then played in three Futures tournaments in California, winning one and coming in third in another.
During those weeks Daniels upgraded her cell phone plan from 600 to 1,000 minutes, and then to 1,400 minutes, trying to find a cure for her homesickness. "I was lonely," she says. " Hawaii was really tough. Here I am in a this tropical paradise, a very romantic place, and the love of my life is on the other side of the world."
Price wasn't getting much sleep either during the 52 nights apart from his wife. The frequent calls from parts west were one reason, but another was that he was worried about his own game. He was unsuccessful in all six of his attempts to Monday-qualify for Buy.com tournaments, although he did have better luck in four mini-tour events, finishing second in two of them. "Being the man, I feel as if I have a responsibility to provide," says Price. "Plus, I like to keep my game sharp. If there's a tournament to play, I'll be there."
Daniels has been the superior breadwinner this season, earning $30,000 to Price's $14,000. But, as Price says, pursuing a dream is more important than immediate riches to both members of this twosome.