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Mallon Selects Pepper as Assistant Solheim Cup Captain
On July 4th on the eve of the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Team captain Meg Mallon named Dottie Pepper as her assistant captain. The biennial competition that pits the Americans against a squad of European professionals will take place August 13-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo.
Pepper drew flak when, as a golf reporter for Golf Channel at the 2007 Solheim Cup, she referred to the U.S. team as "chokin' freakin' dogs," thinking that the coverage had gone to commercial and she wasn't on-air. There was a firestorm of protest by the players and the media. Pepper has said repeatedly that she regretted the comment, and on Wednesday Mallon said that her friend needs to "stop carrying this burden around."
"I'm so excited for Dottie," added Mallon. "Dottie and I have played our whole careers together, fought for each other on (six) Solheim Cups. I'm just thrilled to have her by my side."
As a competitive golfer Pepper is certainly appropriately named. Known for her fiery on-course persona the 46-year-old New Yorker exhibited feistiness and outspokenness. But that personality worked as she racked up 17 victories on the LPGA Tour - including two majors - and a stellar 13-5-2 record in the Solheim Cup.
Mallon said she'd add a second assistant captain in early 2013.
The following is a full transcript of Mallon's Wednesday announcement as well as comments by Pepper and a Q&A from attending reporters.
MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. My name is Kraig Kann, Chief Communications Officer for the LPGA Tour. Happy 4th of July. And thank you very much for coming this morning. As the best in women's golf takes center stage in a whole lot of ways at one of golf's biggest and very best events, we welcome you to the United States Woman's Open. I'm joined by the American Solheim Cup captain, Meg Mallon, to my immediate right. Also joined by six-time Solheim Cup team member for the United States, Dottie Pepper is here as well.
The matches are set for August 13-18 in Parker, Colorado, outside Denver at Colorado Golf Club. That is next year, 2013, the 13th edition of the Solheim Cup which is currently in the hands of Team Europe. Before we begin, I want to say a special thank you very much to the United States Golf Association for allowing us this time and this stage this morning. This is a big platform, we understand. We are glad to be able to share this news with you today here at this event. This is also a very big week for the women players, double points to qualify for the Solheim Cup team. So I want to get that out here. Without further adieu, Meg, the stage is yours. And I know you have an announcement.
MEG MALLON: Actually, I was just going to announce that eight years ago today I won the U.S. Open. I don't know if you all remember that.
MODERATOR: Thank you all for being here.
MEG MALLON: I appreciate that. Obviously I'm thrilled and excited to announce my first assistant captain for the 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club as Miss Dottie Pepper. (Applause).
Who is crying already. She's killing me. She's going to kill me. I have Nancy Lopez, Jr. to my right here. This has been a great process talking to Dottie about becoming the assistant. As you know, when I was announced as captain, I talked about Dottie's role in the Solheim Cup and how important that is and how important I feel that is. I feel that Dottie will be a captain some day and also strongly feel that if you're a captain, especially as big as the Solheim Cup has become, that it's important to be an assistant and be a part of the process.
I'm so excited for Dottie. Dottie and I have played our whole careers together, competed against each other, fought for each other on five Solheim Cups, five or six. I'm just thrilled to have her by my side. I'm going to - this is Dottie's stage today, so I'm going to let her tell you how she feels, if she can get it out of her mouth right now. But I appreciate you all being here. It's just exciting. Thanks again to the USGA for allowing us to do this special announcement.
DOTTIE PEPPER: Thank you. Thank you all for coming on quick response. This was definitely not planned for this week, to the point that she said to me what are you going to wear? I said, I don't know. I wasn't really - this was definitely not on the agenda. Although we did speak last week and we've been speaking for a few months, actually. And I don't think anyone really knew. Meg had talked to a few of the players, potential players, past players, and I'm thrilled to be able to reconnect with them, reconnect with the LPGA in an event that obviously matters a lot, mattered a lot to me. I went back, looking - crossing lines about our careers. And I remember back in the mid 80s when I was at Furman in the spring we always hosted the Ladies College Invitational, and Ohio State always came down, and we always felt so badly for them because the weather was horrible. It snowed, rained, some combination of the other or it was so hot that Meg was as red as her shirt by the time she left because they hadn't seen good weather in so long.
And then we ended up winning our first LPGA events at the same event, at the Oldsmobile Classic. So the connection goes way way back, and of course, five Solheim Cup teams beginning in 1992. We were bookend losses. So we got to really enjoy the middle and learn from the bookends. I think that's what I hope I can bring to that team is the things that we learned from both sides of giving the Cup away, getting it back, giving it away, getting it back and hopefully certainly getting it back again.
I told her yesterday that I'm - what can Brown do for you? I'm the UPS man here. I'm about logistics and trying to make her job easier and putting out whatever fires I can to make her job as being captain as easy as possible and to be able to run anything by me and bounce it off and her to ultimately make the decisions. But to just have, I don't know, somebody who is kind of particular about stats. I feel like I do my homework, and maybe that can help us put the best team forward a year from August. Thank you, by the way, it will be my 48th birthday present Saturday of the matches. Early birthday present for me. Thank you.
MEG MALLON: Nice try.
DOTTIE PEPPER: 48th?
MEG MALLON: Nice try.
MODERATOR: We're going to take some questions obviously from the audience. I want to ask, before we do that, the first one to you, Meg, obviously we're seeing some emotion shockingly from Dottie. It's really not what I was expecting to see. I don't know about the folks out here. What do you feel like she's going to add? She said stats and so forth. I don't think she's going to be mailing letters and doing that. But she brings a lot to the table. When you made this choice, why?
MEG MALLON: Well, I'm no dummy. Dottie and I balance each other out very nicely. I'm more of a big picture person. And Dottie is great on the details and very organized and also has a great knowledge of the golf course, which is going to be helpful as well. We balance each other very well, and I think as a team and how the team will look at us they'll see the whole package. And that's what I wanted out of my assistants. She's going to fit that role very well.
MODERATOR: Dottie, I want to ask you a question that I'm guessing is going to come your way anyway. So I'm going to ask it to you. This is something that will probably be discussed a little bit in the media, as I'm sure you can imagine. Your comments broadcasting the Solheim Cup back in 2007 caused quite a stir. And there were some comments that were not intended for air that did. Have you cleared the air in regard to that? And how do you feel about that issue as it pertains to you being the captain assistant?
DOTTIE PEPPER: I'm going to take Meg's broad brush stroke and big picture. I don't know if there's a broadcaster in sports or even in sports themselves that hasn't said something that they don't regret saying, whether it's it was intended for air. I reached out to that team immediately as soon as I knew it had happened. I reached out to the LPGA to get a message that they could put my head on a plate if they so cared to. I felt like I did the right thing. There was definitely a lot of hurt in both directions. I have had a number of players reach out to me. Some very upset, some not. Some with a bit of a joke in their voice. But there's not a day really that goes by that I don't regret that it happened. And we all learn.
MEG MALLON: Well, and that being said, I just felt it was enough. I wasn't on that 2007 team, but I was there when it happened. I saw the hurt on the players' faces. When I got home and I listened to the telecast, knowing Dottie as long as I've known her, it just was Dottie in her passion and her passion for the game and her passion for the Solheim Cup. I know it wasn't out of ill will by any part. That's where I feel like Dottie needed to stop carrying this burden around. And that she needs to be a part of this event, and these players need to get to know the Dottie that I know.
MODERATOR: Some red, white and blue passion will definitely be there next year. Let's take some questions from the audience. We'll try to get the microphone to you all.
Q. Congratulations. Given the incident in 2007, was there a part of you that thought this day might not ever come where you would be asked to be an assistant?
DOTTIE PEPPER: Yeah. Certainly. I don't think you could not. I told Tim Rosaforte back in January after the subject came back up again after Meg's announcement of being captain the possibility, the thoughts that were popped around that I had kind of made good with it a long time ago that, hey, I screwed up. The guy on the switch screwed up. We all screwed up. And that if that was the way it was going to be, that was the way it was going to be. I couldn't change that.
Q. Dottie, your obvious emotions of being elected and talking about your career paralleling Meg's, does that indicate how much you miss playing the game?
DOTTIE PEPPER: I miss playing good golf. I can tell you that. Not missing it so much. Certainly looking at this golf course. Not so much. I feel like I have - I'm still getting so much out of the game that's given me so much that that was only a very small part of it. And being able to do this, being able to do my job in television and being able to reconnect with the LPGA, as I said, makes me not miss playing. But again, I miss playing good golf. But I'm a nine and diner now. Thank you very much.
Q. Let's try and lighten the mood a little here. Dottie, I want to ask you if it's at all possible we might see a renewal of interest in the Europeans marketing a Dottie Pepper punching bag.
DOTTIE PEPPER: We can provide that.
Q. From the '98 match. Second of all, and maybe both can speak to this, and that is just your favorite memories of Solheim Cup, Dottie, just you playing and Meg, you playing with Dottie.
DOTTIE PEPPER: Oh, gosh. We were never partners. Not once.
MEG MALLON: Dottie always got to pick her own partners. I got thrown with everybody. Put Meg with them. Meg will play with them.
DOTTIE PEPPER: Actually Brandie Burton picked me and I was stuck with her from there on in. Gladly. I think one of my favorite memories was watching you, actually, at Muirfield Village being she went to Ohio State and to have the matches played there. I know it was moving for you. There was a football game on Saturday, and it didn't impact attendance one ounce. That was pretty special. And again, that particular match in '98 watching my partner, Brandie Burton, try to hit a shot she had no business hitting at the 11th, par 5 and falling into the creek. We were actually texting back and forth last night, and she asked me what one of my best memories was. I said it wasn't actually a best memory but it's sticking because she smelled so bad. When she got out of that creek, it was just horrible.
MEG MALLON: Yeah. This is why I want Dottie back into the fold as well. She arguably was the face of the Solheim Cup in the '90s. And carried that, carried it very well and wore her red, white and blue on her sleeve and unabashedly patriotic, which was fantastic. Nine Solheim Cups I've been a part of. It's so many great memories for everyone. That's why I love watching it through the young players' eyes and seeing that, and I can't wait for Dottie to be in that locker room and see it from that perspective, to remember what that was like representing your country. So each and every one of them have been special. Obviously it's a lot more fun to win, but when we lost, we had a good time too. At the end of the day we shook hands with the Europeans and had a great time. That's what the Solheim Cup event is all about. That's what the Solheims wanted it to be.
MODERATOR: Dottie, you worked for NBC Sports and you'll be working this week. How does that come into play? How will your work with NBC potentially, will it hamper you in seeing players? How do you balance that?
DOTTIE PEPPER: When Meg and I spoke on Friday, I said, I would love to do this, but I can't tell you yes now, because I had - I have bosses I needed to clear this with. We're all in the middle of contract renegotiations and schedules that may change. It's certainly my intent to be around the LPGA and the bigger events next year, not only from a broadcast standpoint, but also from an extra set of eyes for Meg. So one of the first text phone calls I made was to Tommy Roy, who happened to be in Omaha for the Olympics trials which were going from 11 a.m. to 10:00 every day. And also to Molly Solomon at Golf Channel. I needed to run this by both of them.
They iced me for a day and a half. Mostly because Molly is moving into a new house in Orlando with triplets. They had just finished their school pre clearance for the fall. Tommy was up and at 'em odd hours through Omaha and Michael Phelps locking in all that other great stuff that was going on. So when they did call me back on Sunday, the reaction - I think I had to peel them both off the roof, they were so excited. They were just ecstatic supportive. And they said, whatever you need to do, we'll figure it out. So I called Meg right away and said I'm in.
There were a few things I saw online last night. And I see Judy Rankin in the back of the room, and the question was can anyone really balance being a broadcaster and being a captain, assistant captain, whatever it is. I say absolutely, and I went back last night and looked for examples. And the one that - one particular obviously Judy did it twice working for ABC and ESPN. Dave Marr did it in 1981 working for an American Broadcasting Company.
I'm going to continue to broadcast the same way I've always done, do my homework and just staying with the numbers and my gut tells me. I know Judy Rankin made me better because she always said it in a nicer way maybe than I do sometimes. If she told you you didn't chip very well, you didn't chip very well. And she had a reason to say that. I will continue to do that. Part of my homework. I think - I hope it will make the team better. And also the experience I've had working now so many Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups I've seen some things from behind the scenes that I think will help our team, will help Meg and maybe ease out a few speed bumps and make them go away completely. Whether it be a wardrobe malfunctions or whatever. I've seen a lot over the last eight years now, and I hope that can help.
MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q. I was wondering if anybody had been in contact with the course in Parker and whether they were affected by the wildfires at all?
MEG MALLON: I have talked to them. They have not been affected. They are getting a lot of smoke. It's more Colorado Springs, obviously. Parker is about a half hour south of Denver. So they are getting some smoke effect, but that's about it. Fingers crossed on that one and that that all gets taken care of.
MODERATOR: It should be known also we'll be out there in August with for a media opportunity for the European side and from the American side Meg will be there and I believe Dottie will be there as well. As we try to ramp up the support and get ready for 2013. Other questions? Let me just run down the American side, get maybe your perspective on where the team is. I know we're a long way off. It might add some perspective to your jobs over the next few months. Stacy Lewis is at the top, Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer tied for 5th, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome. Morgan Pressel is 7th, Katie Futcher eighth; and tied for tenth right now, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson.
MEG MALLON: Okay. Let's go.
MODERATOR: What are your thoughts on the American side and your preparation? How much have you been talking to players at this point? Can you give us an update?
MEG MALLON: As you said, the first year is double points and majors and not as much as it is for next year. But that being said, it's a short year next year. The Solheim Cup is in August, not in September, so there's fewer events to qualify. Mike says he's going to get a lot more events on the schedule.
DOTTIE PEPPER: We don't have to worry about the points.
MEG MALLON: I really like how it's shaping up. I love American women's golf right now. I think it's outstanding. The players that are coming up, the names that are coming up, the players that are coming up to me and saying I want to make the team so bad. I love the enthusiasm, and it looks good. It looks really good. I think we're going to have a tough decision in August in our picks because I think we're going to have a lot of players playing well at that point. That's a good problem to have.
MODERATOR: What's been your biggest challenge thus far? Is there any sense of complacency because it's a long way off? Or do you feel like you're busy every day thinking of this?
MEG MALLON: It's busy every day. The points come out. There's a lot going on behind the scenes which I'll start introducing Dottie to. We have conference calls every couple of weeks. I've already been out for clothing, for rain gear. Sunice and Antiqua have been wonderful to work with. As funny as it sounds, clothing is a big deal. Players want to be comfortable, and it means a lot. So that's a tedious process, but a fun one as well. So it's just things like that, the preparation things that - so that by the time the week comes, everything is done. So the players don't have to worry about a thing, but just to play golf and that we've done our job and been prepared for them. That's basically what we do for the next year.
MODERATOR: Chance for a last couple of questions? Anybody? All right. I'll allow you each a final statement. Dottie, I'll start with you. What's your first thing you're going to do now that this is official?
DOTTIE PEPPER: I'm going to go check the timeline on Randall Bell's tweets because I'm darn sure he was the first one to put something out.
MEG MALLON: Sorry.
DOTTIE PEPPER: I really haven't thought about it. This was my timeline ending today. We'll start again. I'm just thrilled. I will share our first clothing issue from last night. We weren't supposed - this was not on the radar this week, certainly. Meg said, what are you going to wear? I said, I have a white shirt and some red pants. Oh, great. For 4th of July, it's all patriotic. All you. Perfect. I sent her a text last night and said, I'm rethinking this red pants thing. And I said, remember in 1992 we lost and wearing red pants on Sunday? And we all made a vow on that team to never wear red pants again when it came to the Solheim Cup. So I'm wearing white.
MEG MALLON: That's carried through, too. We have not worn red since 1992. It's been fairly successful with that. I'm thrilled. My team is starting to come together. And with Dottie, obviously it's a big piece of the puzzle. I'm not going to announce my next assistant until the end of this year, the beginning of next year. I just want to see how everything plays out this year. I'm just thrilled. This is a big piece of the puzzle for me. I've got a great team. I've got my cart driver Danny Dan who is going to be with me the whole time.
MODERATOR: So that's an official selection? You've made that?
MEG MALLON: That was my first selection. No offense, Dottie. The Danny Dan job is important.
DOTTIE PEPPER: Danny is no rookie.
MEG MALLON: No, he's been on the cart for a long time. I have a lot of support. I want to make sure all the past Solheim Cup players are involved in this event; past captains. Hall of Famers. I want a big presence from our tour. I want our players to see their past and why they're here today.
MODERATOR: It's interesting because Dottie always got to pick her partners. You just took what was left apparently according to what you said earlier. Now the tables are turned and you actually picked Dottie. Thanks very much for being here. Thank you to the USGA. Thank you all for coming. We appreciate it, and we will see you in 2013 or in August outside Denver. Thanks very much. Have a great day, everybody. (Applause).
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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