Not bad for a 35-year-old grayhead with a history of so many second-place finishes that she was once given the unflattering nickname of Layup Pat. Now she is Payday Pat.
Of course, Bradley also finished second six times in 1986 (is that bad?), increasing her career runner-up total to 42, exactly double her 21 victories. "The choker thing was a lot of baloney," Bradley said last week before finishing tied for 22nd place in San Jose. "They—the players, the press and the public—didn't like the way I played. They said I was too conservative. It was a bunch of——."
This season Bradley became the first woman golfer ever to win all four of the majors in a career, and as well, the first to shatter the $2 million mark in career earnings.
Her vintage '86 began with second-place finishes in Sarasota and Costa Mesa and continued with a classic self-destruct number in Tucson when, four shots in the lead after the first two rounds, she limped home in 72-76. Two weeks later, though, she got rolling again and won the Nabisco Dinah Shore by rifling a four-iron to the 71st green and sinking a 10-foot birdie putt. Said Darden, who once toted Lopez's bag, "I looked at [ Bradley] when she made that putt, and she was not in this world."
"I've seen a videotape," says Bradley. "He's right."
The rest of the year was quite a ride for Payday Pat. At St. Petersburg, humming her theme song, Walking on Sunshine, Bradley finished with a 65 that was topped off with a final-hole 25-footer that clinched the victory. At the LPGA, Bradley matched Patty Sheehan's 72nd-hole birdie with a bird of her own, a 12-foot tournament winner that left Sheehan pounding her fists on the ground in frustration. At the du Maurier, Bradley, nine shots back on Friday, roared home with a 67-66, then blasted Ayako Okamoto with a birdie on the first hole of sudden death.
"People don't think she has charisma because she is so serious on the course," says Val Skinner, another LPGA pro. "Her charisma comes from winning. The players think she should be the athlete—not just the golfer—of the year."
"It was frustrating in past years, because deep down I knew I had the talent to win," says Bradley. "I've gotten raked over the coals for what I haven't done. Now maybe I'll get praised for what I have done." She certainly deserves to. Since 1983 what Bradley has done is to win 12 tournaments, including four majors, as well as finish second 18 times. Moreover, Bradley now has had nine consecutive $100,000 seasons.
A year ago Bradley was so pleased with herself for battling Lopez right to the end in the race for No. 1 that for Christmas she gave herself a $7,000 watch, a duplicate of Lopez's prize. Bradley calls it "my own Player of the Year award."
Now she'll have one for each wrist.