I have a long, complex relationship with Laura Davies, who won the New Zealand Women's Open two weeks ago, her 73rd worldwide victory. One of the basics of broadcasting is no rooting, but the woman otherwise known as Mate or LD is two points (two LPGA wins or one major) away from admission into the Hall of Fame, and I'm pulling for her.
I first met Laura (below) in 1987 at the U.S. Women's Open. She was—and still is—a huge woman with a baby face, enormous power and a surgeon's touch, which she showed off by winning the championship that year. In 1988 we were expected to duel for LPGA rookie of the year, although Liselotte Neumann trumped us both. Later that year Laura and I teamed up in the LPGA-JLPGA matches and had a boatload of fun.
That all changed with the start of the Solheim Cup in 1990. We're both competitive, passionate and patriotic, and things got intense when we faced off. I still believe Juli Inskster and I beating Laura and Trish Johnson on the first morning of the 1998 matches set the tone for the U.S. victory over Europe—and led to Annika Sorenstam and LD taking a few shots at a painting of my face, which decorated a punching bag in the European locker room. The animosity festered until 2001, when I approached LD to clear the air. She told me I was "useless," and I returned the compliment. We raised a few more issues and got it all out—mission accomplished. I respect someone who says what she feels, and I think she's the same way.
Since I retired, we've had some good chats, and I've become a fan. The Kraft Nabisco looms (April 1--4) and I'd love to see Mate get those final points there. I can almost see her hitching up her skirt as she goes for the par-5 72nd in 2, pulls it off and celebrates with a well-earned jump in the lake at Mission Hills.
Dottie Pepper is an NBC golf analyst.