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The Pepper Mill
Dottie Pepper
May 26, 2008
IN 1990 I was privileged to play in the inaugural Solheim Cup at Lake Nona in Orlando. Kathy Whitworth was our captain, and the U.S. was heavily favored, but Captain Whitworth cautioned us never to let down our guard because great players make underdogs better and inspire them to play over their heads. Whitworth, a winner of a mere 88 LPGA tournaments, knew a thing or two about front-running and underdogs, so we listened (and won). Annika Sorenstam's announcement that she will be stepping away from competitive golf at the end of the season took me right back to that advice from Whitworth—because that's exactly what Annika has done to and for others. Her methodical pursuit of excellence made lesser players better and inspired them to reach heights that they, in reality, could have only considered a fantasy.
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May 26, 2008

The Pepper Mill

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IN 1990 I was privileged to play in the inaugural Solheim Cup at Lake Nona in Orlando. Kathy Whitworth was our captain, and the U.S. was heavily favored, but Captain Whitworth cautioned us never to let down our guard because great players make underdogs better and inspire them to play over their heads. Whitworth, a winner of a mere 88 LPGA tournaments, knew a thing or two about front-running and underdogs, so we listened (and won). Annika Sorenstam's announcement that she will be stepping away from competitive golf at the end of the season took me right back to that advice from Whitworth—because that's exactly what Annika has done to and for others. Her methodical pursuit of excellence made lesser players better and inspired them to reach heights that they, in reality, could have only considered a fantasy.

Of my Solheim Cup match victories I am perhaps proudest of the point Brandie Burton and I earned against Annika and Catrin Nilsmark in the Friday-afternoon four-ball matches at Muirfield Village in '98 (right). We had lost to the Swedish duo two years earlier in a foursomes match and knew as underdogs that we had to put forth our very best effort to win. Although Brandie fell in a creek and lost a shoe while trying to play her second shot at the 11th, we scratched and clawed our way to a 2-up win in dwindling light. That late-day, momentum-building match was the springboard to a U.S. team victory two days later. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than playing your best against the very best.

Annika received her share of criticism for being, at times, stoic and one-dimensional, but that changed with her opening tee shot at the 2003 Colonial. As she buckled at the knees, you could almost hear the sigh of relief from her: mission accomplished. Her facial expressions from that day forward seemed to change, and a real joy of playing the game shone through. I sensed that same sigh of relief this week after her retirement announcement: mission accomplished. After a long, sustained existence as the best of the best, she has decided that it's time to move on and focus on family and other passions. None of us will ever forget, though, that in her quest for greatness she made others better, myself included.

Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran and analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes your letters at dottie@siletters.com.

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