After a dozen years of reporting for daily papers and a lifetime of watching sports with her father, Dan, who was one of SI's top writers from 1963 to '84, Sally Jenkins finally felt the weight of her own experience last March in Boca Raton, Fla. "I was covering Jennifer Capriati's 'coming out' at the Virginia Slims of Florida for The Washington Post," she says. "Six months earlier I had covered the final Grand Slam appearance of Chris Evert, whom I'd been writing about since 1982, so to see the 'birth' of this 13-year-old player within the same year made me feel like a real veteran. It was one of the most interesting weeks I've ever had."
Since leaving the Post in September to join SI as a senior writer, Jenkins has covered college football, college basketball, golf and tennis. For this week's issue, we sent her back to Boca to check up on Capriati and her colleagues on the women's tour (page 66). Despite having deftly made the transition from daily to weekly news coverage, Jenkins, 30, reports that working at the more generous pace of a weekly magazine frequently makes her feel "like a deadbeat. I don't know what to do if I'm not pressed with my back to the wall with daily deadlines."
That's because Jenkins has been pressed to the wall ever since her college days at Stanford, where she covered sports for the student paper and the Peninsula Times Tribune and worked as an AP stringer. After graduating in 1982, she wrote sports for the San Francisco Examiner, gossip for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner and sports for the San Francisco Chronicle before the Post recruited her in 1984. While in Washington, Jenkins was part of a team of reporters that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the death of Maryland basketball player Len Bias. And during that time she fell in love with the tennis beat. "I'd leave for the French Open in May and stay in Europe to cover Wimbledon and the British Open [in golf]," says Jenkins.
Reporting on the British Open was a particular pleasure because she would meet up with her father, who, besides being a best-selling novelist, is a contributing editor for Golf Digest. Some of Sally's earliest sports memories are of golf tournaments she attended with Dan. "I've been in pressrooms since I was eight," she says, "and I went to my first British Open when I was 11—Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus. I can also remember going to the beach at Hilton Head with Arnold Palmer's kids."
Dan, too, worked at newspapers before coming to SI, and he still keeps a cigarette and a cup of coffee within easy reach when he writes. He knows what daily-deadline withdrawal is like, but it's how Sally has tackled the problem that baffles him. "I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years," says Sally. "When I came to the magazine, I quit smoking and started going to the gym. My father was appalled."