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Filling The Gap With A Flourish
Rick Reilly
March 24, 1986
With Nancy Lopez on maternity leave, some brash new-breed stars are now asserting themselves out on the LPGA tour
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March 24, 1986

Filling The Gap With A Flourish

With Nancy Lopez on maternity leave, some brash new-breed stars are now asserting themselves out on the LPGA tour

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Nancy Lopez's obstetrician is one happy baby doc these days. He's happy because his patient is not out there on the LPGA tour, lifting those heavy checks around. She's taking it easy, trying to hit all the food groups and maybe practicing her breathing now and again.

This, in turn, has fulfilled some cravings on the tour for a few new stars who are getting fat, too, month by month, on the money Lopez isn't putting in her purse. Lopez, last season's Player of the Year with five victories and $416,472 in earnings, may have a little morning sickness when she picks up the paper and reads that somebody named Mary Beth Zimmerman already has won two tournaments and $94,612 in seven weeks. Until this year Zimmerman had never won a tournament or finished in the top 20 on the money list.

True, it's happened before. Lopez took maternity leave in 1983, and Patty Sheehan emerged. While the Lopez is away, the mice will play. But this time, Nancy, we may have a coup on our hands.

"It's not Nancy Lopez's tour anymore," says Val Skinner, the rabble's rouser. "It's a whole new world."

To prove it, Skinner hired Lopez's caddie, Dee Darden, won with him and now isn't sure she wants to give him back. Put that in your Huggies.

The new force de tour consists of dynamos like Skinner and Zimmerman and Juli Inkster—all 25 years old and 5, 1 and 2, respectively, on the Lopezless money list. JoAnne Carner knows divots older than these three.

All of them have won already this season. All are so cocksure they give anybody over 30 the yips. All drive the ball great distances, make wedge shots dance the Bulgarian Polka, paint with putters, dress nice and, most disturbing of all, are not the least bit surprised to see their names in Monday's headlines.

This is what stress is coming to on the women's tour. Tension is as fashionable as bell-bottom pants. Inner Golf is in—psychology, mind expansion, self-hypnosis, imaging. Nobody worries about her swing anymore; those are computerized. A lot of players worry about their psyches, and they pay through their money markets to get their brains grooved.

Inkster travels to London to drink in the wisdom of one of the ancients, golf instructor Leslie King. When Skinner needs a shot, she doesn't reach for the niblick, she reaches for Bob Rotella, a hired head handler who has taught her the I'm O.K. You're O.K. method. Zimmerman paid $5,000 to attend a five-day seminar at Sports Enhancement Associates, in Eugene, Ore., and tied for second in the next tournament.

"At night, when I'm lying in bed, I see myself as the winner," Zimmerman says. "I see myself holding up the trophy. I see my name on top of the leader board. I even see my name on the check. I hear my victory speech. I go to sleep that way all the time. And the more I believe it, the more it comes true."

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