- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Still, life is hectic in the Lopez-Knight household this spring. Landscape architects are sprucing up the six acres of pines and oaks that surround the main house, and a construction crew is at work on a swimming pool to go with the guest house and the batting cage. When Lopez is between tournaments and not at a ballpark with Knight, she can probably be found entertaining interviewers in her living room, conferring with landscapers in the kitchen, or at the wheel of the Mazda she won last year at the LPGA Championship, shuttling Ashley and Erinn to preschool and ballet lessons. If she is none of those places, she might be on the practice tee at the Doublegate Country Club.
Lopez has won 42 tournaments and $2.78 million since she turned pro in 1977, and the money goes a long way toward lightening most burdens. Still, win or lose, her family comes first. Even when a major championship is at stake, she doesn't hesitate. The night before the second round of the Dinah Shore last year, Lopez was up most of the night with Ashley, who had a violently upset stomach. The next day she shot 75, her highest score of the week, and on Sunday she finished tied for 18th. "It was aggravating, because the Dinah Shore is such a big tournament and you want to be at your best," Lopez says. "But Ashley needed me."
Lopez hasn't won a tournament this year, partly because of a thyroid condition, and partly, she admits, because she has sacrificed practice time to be with her children. One of her time-consuming projects is getting herself into good enough shape to do cartwheels with Ashley, who's a cheerleader for a kids' football team in Albany. "I would like to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife and the perfect golfer," says Lopez. "But I've found that it's almost impossible."
The LPGA began preparing for the baby boom three years ago, when it entered into a sponsorship deal with Kinder-Care Learning Centers. In exchange for being designated the official child-care provider to the LPGA tour, Kinder-Care offers free day-care and transportation services for player parents at most tournament sites. The idea is to ease the mind of the parent who can't provide a relative or afford a nanny, and also to make her life easier by giving her a break. "A grown-up can only spend so much time with a child," says Dale Eggeling, a pro who has a two-year-old son, Dustin. On the other hand, kids who are among adults most of the time need a break, too. Day-care gives them a chance to be with other children.
Twenty years ago such a service would have been the answer to Judy Rankin's prayers. Rankin, along with Kathy Cornelius and three-time U.S. Open winner Susie Berning, pioneered LPGA family touring. Rankin, now a commentator for ABC golf telecasts, was a golf prodigy from St. Louis who turned pro at 17. At age 22 she married Walter (Yippy) Rankin, an insurance executive, and in 1968, at 23, she had a son, Walter Jr., then known as Tuey. Judy had intended to retire from the tour when Tuey was born, but she played so well in her first two outings after giving birth that she eventually decided to return to full-time competition, taking husband and child with her. For the next 12 years, Yippy and Tuey Rankin were LPGA tour fixtures, while Judy played the best golf of her life, winning more than 25 tournaments. Tuey traveled full-time until he entered school; after that father and son commuted between their Midland, Texas, home and the tour.
It wasn't an easy life. Tournament purses were meager and finding a good baby-sitter was an iffy proposition. Once when three-year-old Tuey was sick, Rankin almost withdrew from a tournament because she had second thoughts about the baby-sitter she had left the boy with. A tournament volunteer saved the day by picking him up and caring for him while Rankin played her round.
Another time Rankin hired a 14-year-old boy to baby-sit when Tuey had chicken pox, because the kid was the only person she could find who had already had the disease. "I didn't think it was possible, when I came on the tour, to try to be married, have a child and play on the tour full-time," she says. "Everybody has to give a bit."
The ride on the motherhood road is rougher for some than for others. Terry-Jo Myers, 27, who describes herself as a "type-A personality, a perfectionist," was a promising fourth-year pro with one victory on her record and winnings of $77,000 in her best year when she became pregnant late in 1988. She returned to the tour last September, five weeks after her daughter, Taylor-Jo, was born, and in three season-ending tournaments she finished 51st, 62nd and 74th. Her total winnings for 1989 were $13,646. Returning home to Fort Myers, Fla., Terry-Jo sank into a severe depression that lasted two months and came, she thinks, out of "hormonal changes, the pressure of going on tour with a baby and not knowing what to expect, and trying too hard to be perfect." She says, "It was the first time in my life I felt like I was out of control."
Not wanting to take care of her baby and buffeted by mood swings that were straining her marriage to Gary Mundy Jr., a paramedic, Myers consulted a psychologist and an obstetrician specializing in the treatment of postpartum depression, who prescribed tranquilizers and hormones. "Since February I've felt wonderful," she says. "The postpartum [depression] is gone. But it was like starting the season three months behind everyone else, because I couldn't prepare the way I normally would." Evidence of her effort to catch up is a stair-climbing machine that stands next to the playpen in the living room of her condominium.
After eight tournament appearances and five missed cuts this year, Myers is off medication but still far down the money list. "But I'm on a more even keel," she says. "I know I will play good golf again."