Amy Alcott has a knack for living out her fantasies. When she was a girl of 9 or 10, living in Brentwood, she would stand over a putt on her front-yard course and fantasize that it was for the U.S. Open championship.
"If I knocked the ball in the cup (really an old soup can), she said, "I'd let out a yelp and scream, 'I did it! I'm the Open champion!' "
In the summer of 1983, on a sweltering day in Nashville, Tenn., with the temperature hovering around 115 degrees, she actually did knock in a putt that won the Open. It was the biggest moment of a memorable professional career that began in 1975, when she was 18.
Traveling up to 30 weeks a year on the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. tour means eating out a lot. Alcott is a fast food devotee, and the more she watched short order cooks whip up quick sandwiches, the more she realized she'd like to work the noon shift. Another fantasy was born.
At the end of the 1983 season, burned out from a long season that seemed unproductive--even though she was the LPGA's eighth-leading money winner--Alcott decided she wanted another job. She had frequented the Butterfly Bakery and Deli in Westwood because, she says, "They have the best crumbcake in Los Angeles," and one day she asked owner Liz Brooks if she could work the front counter.
"She put an apron and a chef's hat on me right then and there and before you knew it, I was making sandwiches for the lunch-hour crowd," she said. "I loved it. The more pressure there was, the more excited I got. It was great therapy for me, too. I found out how other people face pressure. Making a tuna salad sandwich in a rush didn't affect me as much as facing a four-footer (putt) on the last hole, but it's plenty tough."
Another fantasy lived out.
When golfers drop in to the bakery from nearby courses, like Hillcrest or Rancho or her old stomping grounds at Riviera, their jaws drop when they see a 29-year-old millionaire golfer with one hand in the mayonnaise jar and the other writing up an order.
"A few friends said they didn't think I should do it, because it might look like I needed the money," Alcott said, laughing. She won $261,836 last season with her golf clubs.
"But I really look forward to coming in here when I'm not out on the tour," she said of the bakery. "It's a great relaxation for me. Some of the (golf tour) girls like to sit in the sun, on the beach or by the pool, but after a couple of hours, that drives me nuts. I've got to be doing something."
The morning after she had won the Circle K Tucson Open last month, Alcott was waiting at the door when the bakery opened.
"I'm so pumped up," she said. "I've got to wind down and this is the best way I know."
True to a chef's tradition, Alcott has designed a sandwich of her own, the Alcott Hole in One, which is now a Butterfly Bakery specialty.
"It has a fried egg in a croissant, with Swiss cheese, tomato, Dijon mustard and alfalfa sprouts," she said. "It reminds me of my father (Eugene, a dentist, who died in 1981). He was quite a handball player, and when I was very little he played every Saturday morning on the courts at Venice Beach. He'd take me down there with my dog and sit me up at a little stand and buy me a fried egg sandwich and an orange drink. I'll never forget those memories."
Another of Alcott's ambitions is to design golf courses from a woman's perspective.
"There are more than 5 million women playing golf, and I don't think they are taken into account by the men who design courses," she said. "Most architects think all they need do is drop a couple of tee markers up front of the men and let the women hit from there. I think the woman's point of view deserves to be an integral part of course design."
She is getting her first opportunity as a representative of the Princeville resort in Kauai, Hawaii, where a new course is being built. Alcott is being consulted on its design.
In a manner of speaking, she has been designing courses since the day she found some old clubs in the family garage and whacked her first ball in the front yard. She was 9.
"I was too young to get on a public course, and my parents didn't play, so I dug some holes and used soup cans for cups," she said. "I even had my dad build me a sand trap. I played out there all the time. I called it the Alcott Country Club.
"I used real balls, not those sissy plastic balls, so there were a few broken windows. Finally my dad hung heavy nets around the house to protect it. It looked like the house was camouflaged. You'd think my mother would have been upset at all the fuss I caused, but the truth is she was happy because it meant less banged-up arms and legs. I was a tomboy, and until I discovered golf one day watching TV, I was more interested in football and baseball than anything else.