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LPGA statistics list leaders in birdies made as Alice Miller, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan and JoAnne Carner. Sixth is Spencer-Devlin. Says Stacy, giving credit where it's obviously due, "When she came out here, she couldn't play at all. I mean at all. But she's worked hard. I think she'll win this year. I used to make fun of her. She'd show up with this green stuff, her tofu or whatever. And then she'd eat some dirt. But she made herself well."
In 1981 she took a crash course in Japanese, and over the past four years she has spent a total of eight months playing the Japanese circuit and hosting a television golf show. This year, however, she has cut back her appearances in Japan because she is determined to break through and win a tournament. Her best showings have been two second-place finishes. "I've put in a lot of work the last seven years," she says. "I improved a lot. But I'm only halfway there. And I don't think the second half will take as long."
A devotee of self-inspiration, she read once that Player sat in front of a mirror and said over and over, "I'm the best player in the world." So, following Player's example, every week in her motel room, she tapes up a message: "I'm the best putter in the world." On her yardage book, she has written "Patience," and she carries around pieces of paper listing her swing keys. One says: GEAR BACK¾ SPEED, SWING SMOOTHER AND SMOOTHER, SLOW BACKSWING, TUNE INTO MY BODY, RELEASE TENSION, WARM AND HEAVY, 4-4-4-4 3-2-1, 1-2-3.
It makes sense to her, but then so does reincarnation. "I mean, why not believe it?" says Spencer-Devlin. "It doesn't hurt anybody. It answers some questions for me: Why I seek out adventure. Why I seek out fame. Didn't you ever dream about swashbuckling? If you open yourself up to that, you have a little insight into what is going on in the world."
Swashbuckling aside, Spencer-Devlin is clearly a vastly different person from the Spencer-Devlin of 10 years ago. She is anti-drugs, anti-alcohol. Golf saved her life. Besides teaching her discipline and responsibility, that you had to pay for your mistakes with bogeys or worse, golf gave her a goal, something to work for—and a way to get her picture in magazines and on television and her name up in lights. No wonder she works so hard at it.
"I'm always running into people who were tournament winners and good players on those minitours," Spencer-Devlin says. "They're kind of amazed at what I've done. It's fun to see them, sort of like being the bad girl and going back to your high school reunion as a big success. But what's really been nice are all the people who have come up and said, 'I'm really proud of what you've done, that you've got it all together.'
"I've gone through so much—there were days when I was afraid to answer the door because I was afraid it was someone serving a warrant—that in the future I definitely see myself as an Auntie Mame type, sort of passing on all of this knowledge about life. I have this vision of myself pushing this little pram, or walking down the street with a little boy in knickerbockers, a Little Lord Fauntleroy. Maybe it's purely egotistical, but I think I'd have a pretty neat kid. I'd certainly go shopping in terms of choosing a father. In fact, I'm shopping all the time. After all, life is a great big supermarket."
Things have changed so much. The rags are riches again. One joy accruing from her success was strutting into Tiffany & Co. in New York and opening a charge account—coming back to the Big Apple with money to spend. Another has been the close bond she has formed with her mother and stepfather, who now live in Boynton Beach, Fla. There has been a lot of consolation for The Consolation Kid. Pat Harrington Devlin is so proud of Muffin that she is a volunteer scorer each year at the Mazda Classic of Deer Creek in Deerfield Beach, Fla., near Muffin's home, just so she can stroll the fairways with her daughter.
The day after last June's LPGA Championship ended, Spencer-Devlin played in a pro-am in Cincinnati that was sponsored by the Fifth Third Bank. These affairs are always a bit like blind dates, with an awkward period that can last a few minutes or an entire day. Sometimes they're fun, sometimes they're dreadful. By the second hole, Spencer-Devlin had her four teammates' names memorized and was urging them on with shouts of encouragement and advice. Walking down a fairway to her drive, she saw two balls. "I hope mine's the short one," she said to a companion. "It's better for everyone's ego."
After a few holes, she had them giving high fives after good shots. It took a little instruction. "C'mon, guys," Spencer-Devlin said. "If you're going to be a bro', when someone gives you a high five, you've got to give 'em one back." Given one more day, she confided, she could have had them break dancing.