Dottie Pepper accepted congratulatory as well as sympathy messages from well-wishers when word got out that the colorful TV analyst would hand her microphone back to NBC at the end of the year.
“People were surprised but understood my reasons [for leaving NBC],” Pepper told SBNation Monday night about her decision to step away from the broadcast booth and into the next phase of her life as a member of the PGA of America board of directors.
While Pepper’s fans will sorely miss her tell-it-like-it-is, no-fluff analysis, the 17-time LPGA winner looked forward to giving back to the game by working with new PGA president Ted Bishop on her true calling -- boosting the game among women and juniors.
“Ted said, ‘Women and children, those are going to be my two big pushes as president,’” said Pepper, who will nail down her specific duties by the middle of next month or so. “I’m not going to go into this and just be a person sitting in a board room for three years....I don’t want to not do it right.”
Nagging injuries forced Pepper, who earned two major championships during her LPGA career, to retire from competition in 2004. She moved seamlessly to the other side of the mike at ESPN, Golf Channel, and NBC, where her straightforward commentary and insights earned kudos from golf fans even as it may have, at times, rankled the golfers.
The 47-year-old Pepper accepted her new three-year role as an independent director of the PGA at the organization’s 96th annual meeting in Baltimore on Saturday. She will finish her 2012 contract with NBC at Tiger Woods’ World Challenge, the Franklin Templeton Shootout, and wrap it up at the PNC Father Son Challenge.
Pepper was also enthusiastic about cutting back on travel, even as NBC prepared to ramp up the number of events she was to cover.
“It became apparent I was going to be asked to be doing more and I really just don’t want to be away from home anymore,” said Pepper, who lives in upstate New York. “This has been a big blessing to have this [PGA of America] opportunity pop up when it did.”
Leaving her NBC team, which includes Roger Maltbie, Gary Koch, Mark Rolfing, and Johnny Miller, was the most difficult part of Pepper’s decision.
“The guys...were like...big brothers I never had,” she said.
Shedding her television workload will also allow Pepper to devote more time to writing her “Bogey Tees Off” series of children’s books, through which she hopes to get kids to play golf and read more, and to her duties as assistant captain to Meg Mallon’s 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup team.
“I was going to be working at least half the year [at NBC],” Pepper said, “so this gives me a lot more time to help Meg.”