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Running away from her past, Stephenson works harder than anyone, and the dividends are beginning to come in. During one nine-event stretch last season, she was fifth or better seven times, and she finished the year in the top 10 of every LPGA statistical category. Actually, work is too soft a term for what she puts herself through. For example, she has a putting drill in which she has to make 100 four-footers in a row before she'll leave the practice green. Sometimes it takes hours.
Her father, Frank, who came over and toted her bag most of last summer, writes to her almost every day—her mother, Barbara, who also has caddied for Jan, usually adds a line or two of her own—and in the closets of her condos and house are all the pretty dresses she has bought and never worn.
And so she keeps driving herself, through sickness and through health, almost beyond comprehension. Last month at the J.C. Penney Mixed Team Championship, a relaxed year-ending event in Largo, Fla. that most players regard chiefly as an occasion for conviviality, Stephenson strode angrily off the course after a bad round. Said her partner, Ben Crenshaw, "She's in a fog, she's so mad."
Stephenson looked at him. "It's not?" she said.
Then she went to hit some chip shots, occasionally punctuating them with comments like, "This is the one I missed at 12...." She had no touch at all, and as the shots clunked she became more exasperated, chopping quickly at the ball. Soon she was hitting assembly-line fashion, faster and faster, and her lower lip was quivering and her eyes were ready to drip. "I can't do this anymore," she wailed. "I'll break down if I do." Then she threw down her club and marched off to her room.
"She takes it serious, doesn't she, Joe?" someone said to Joe Roach, her caddie at that tournament. He nodded yes.
Just then another caddie stepped forward. "Sure she takes it serious," he said, dead serious. "Golf is a game you hasta take serious."
So why doesn't Stephenson take the money and run? Simple. She is looking not so much for victories as for vindication, proof that her sacrificing—leaving her family, abandoning her country, maybe even throwing away her chance for love—has been worth it. Her heart, you see, belongs to golf. She hasta be serious about it.