As a 17-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Dottie Pepper was renowned for her fiery temperament and competitive spirit. Sunday was Pepper’s last day walking the course as a popular color analyst, and she made her way to the 18th green of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club of Orlando, where Davis and Dru Love were crowned 2012 Father/Son Challenge winners, with Ryder Cup fans’ chants of “Dottie Pepper! Dottie Pepper!” ringing in her ears, and tears in her eyes.
Pepper announced last month that she was turning off her microphone and devoting herself to her work as a newly elected board member of the PGA of America. The 47-year-old, two-time major champ bid an emotional adieu to TV fans after NBC’s Jimmy Roberts paid tribute to her passion and devotion to the game she loves.
We’ll let Roberts’ moving farewell to Pepper speak for itself:
“You remember this -- a few months back, the crowd in Chicago with a shout out to Dottie on the first tee of the Ryder Cup? You know, it seems that wherever she goes, people kinda feel like they know her. Now, you may have heard that today is Dottie’s last telecast, she’s retiring from NBC. Starting tomorrow she’s going to pay more attention to her dog, J.P., her family back home in Saratoga [N.Y.], and skiing.
“I’m guessing you probably don’t know, she’s probably the only major champion who's been a ski instructor and she’s going to get her certification back. We also know that starting tomorrow she’ll devote herself to another passion -- junior golf and growing the game as a board member of the PGA.
“Now I’m not very good at math, but by my calculations, Dottie, you’ve walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 miles of fairways on behalf of NBC and Golf Channel. These are the last couple hundred yards or so, girl, so just hang in there for a few more.
“We’re going to miss you, not only because you’re so good at doing this but because you’re a blast to have as a member of our family, which you know you’re always going to be.
“Those kids in junior golf have no idea what's about to hit them. They probably also don’t know how lucky they’re about to be.”
A choked up Pepper found herself at a rare loss for words.
“Now what am I supposed to say to that,” she responded. “I just love these guys and it’s been a wonderful eight years. Thank you for making me part of your family.”
Nagging injuries forced Pepper to retire from competition in 2004, but she moved effortlessly to the other side of the mike at ESPN, Golf Channel, and NBC, where her candid commentary earned kudos from golf fans even if it sometimes rankled the golfers.
Thanks, Dottie, for sharing your expertise and insights. We look forward to following the new chapter of your career at the PGA of America, and, of course, as assistant captain to Meg Mallon at next year’s Solheim Cup.