The promoters of women's golf are always looking to infuse the images of the sport's new stars with a little pizzazz, but fitting Sherri Turner with a dazzling persona might be like trying to play El Capitan with a one-iron. Turner is a self-described couch potato devoted to Barnaby Jones reruns and the strains of Barry Manilow. She brightly admits that her favorite color is gray. "I'm just a very boring person," she says.
Hmmm. Strong concept, as they say in the p.r. biz. Does Tommy Newsom have a backup?
One thing that is scintillating about the 31-year-old Turner is her wide, flowing golf swing, which evokes the technical perfection of Mickey Wright while producing power rivaling that of the long-driving Laura Davies. "I've never had to think much about my swing," says the narrow-shouldered, 5'5", 130-pound Turner in her quiet South Carolina drawl. "I guess it's a gift."
And this year, after four seasons filled with near misses on the LPGA tour, Turner has learned how to make full use of that gift. Following an early-season streak of close finishes, she won the LPGA Championship in May with a final-round 67, on the tough Grizzly Course in Kings Island, Ohio, that gave her a one-shot victory over Amy Alcott. Then, after pausing for her first sip of champagne, Turner bubbled to victory again the next week at the Corning (N.Y.) Classic. Her 11 top-10 finishes in 18 events this year include two playoff losses, and, with $260,976, she's second on the 1988 money list to Nancy Lopez.
"Sherri is going to be around," says Lopez. "It's obvious that she found out winning isn't as difficult as it used to seem." Adds another of her tour rivals, Jan Stephenson, "Sherri exudes confidence now, and she never did before."
Although the bespectacled Turner has yet to be accused of exuding charisma, her victories have had a certain metallic gleam. Turner used to be plagued by a tendency to get down on herself, but that was before her roommate, Melissa Whitmire, devised a psychological pick-me-up before the LPGA Championship.
"Melissa said, "Hey, remember how good the shiny stars you got in elementary school made you feel?' " says Turner. "I went, "Yeah, right.' "
Despite her initial skepticism, Turner began marking her progress during the second round at Kings Island by affixing colored stick-on stars to her copy of the pin sheet, which has diagrams indicating the pin position on each green. A red star on a hole signified a birdie, a silver star meant a par saved, gold was for exceptional shots, and green was for negative thinking.
"It sounds so silly, but it worked," says Turner. "Every time I pulled out the sheet, I'd see all the stars and think, 'Gee, I've hit a lot of good shots. Why worry about hitting a bad one?' By Sunday, I was having so much fun with the stars that I didn't think about winning the tournament until the last two holes." Whereupon Turner came up with a pair of gold-star approach shots to finish with two birdies.
So far, Turner's most impressive pin sheet is a glittery masterpiece of 10 gold stars and 10 red ones, a memento of the 63 she shot in the second round of the Corning. And if Turner's star system continues to produce such results, no one on the LPGA will mind. Her peers are among her biggest fans. When her winning six-foot birdie putt rattled the cup at Kings Island, players in the locker room broke into cheers.