Before the recent Ryder Cup fallout, another group of U.S. golfers caught flak for their sportsmanship during an international competition.
One year and a couple weeks ago, the U.S. women's team handily defeated Europe, 16-12, in the Solheim Cup. The Europeans said some members of the U.S. team celebrated too exuberantly.
Dottie Pepper was fingered as the most notable example, and examples dated to the 1994 event when she cried out, "Yes!" after Laura Davies missed a critical putt.
Then last year, after partner Juli Inkster clinched a par by lagging a 45-foot putt to tap-in range on the 17th hole of a match the Americans were leading 1 up, Pepper wrapped her in a bear hug. The Europeans were upset by the premature celebration while Helen Alfredsson and Marie Laure de Lorenzi waited to putt, a putt that could have evened the match.
"That's sad," Alfredsson said at the time. "That's junior stuff."
Pepper, who was 4-0 in the 1998 Solheim Cup and is 12-4-1 overall, defended her behavior as natural given the emotion of the competition, and so when the U.S. men were criticized for similar actions in their Ryder Cup victory last month, Pepper was empathetic.
"My husband made the remark on Monday morning," Pepper said. "He said all they did was substitute Tom Lehman's name for yours in all of the press clippings from last year.
"I love Tom's remarks that he will apologize for it being out of hand, but he will not apologize for his excitement. I thought he handled it beautifully."
Perhaps Pepper is just getting warmed up for the 2000 Solheim Cup next October at Loch Lomond in Scotland. But we won't have to wait that long to see Pepper in match-play action.
Pepper and Inkster will defend their title at the Diners Club Matches Dec. 11-12 at Pelican Hill. Pepper and Inkster, good friends off the course, make a formidable team. They have won the last two Diners Club events, staged in 1996 and '97.
Pepper said their games are complementary: Inkster is a bit longer off the tee; Pepper is a little straighter.
"We've generated an awful lot of birdies between the two of us and that's what it takes," Pepper said. "It seems like we have an inherent sort of ability to hit a lot of greens and a lot of fairways and be able to be very aggressive."
Pepper and Inkster won three of the four majors in 1996. Pepper won the Nabisco Dinah Shore and Inkster won the U.S. Women's Open and the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
Pepper has been hindered by injuries the last few weeks. She strained her rotator cuff and deeply bruised her left wrist hitting a ball from a buried lie in early September. She returned to competition last week, but shot 80-72 and missed the cut at the New Albany Golf Classic.
The field for the Diners Club Matches is still not set, but one player previously announced by organizers will not be at the event. Fred Couples' partner will be Mark Calcavecchia instead of previously announced Phil Mickelson. The partners for Steve Pate and Chris Perry have yet to be determined. Jeff Maggert and Steve Elkington, defending champions of the PGA Tour division of the event, are scheduled to attend.
The rest of the expected field:
Senior Tour--Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, Gil Morgan and Jay Sigel, Allen Doyle and Dana Quigley and Bruce Fleisher and a partner to be named. LPGA Tour--Nancy Lopez and Kelli Kuehne, Karrie Webb and Kelly Robbins.
Tickets are available through the tournament office, (949) 759-5175; by calling (888) 386-8497, or online at http://www.etm.com
Peter Daley of Newport Beach lost to Gary Menzel of Milwaukee, 3 and 2, in the third round of the U.S. Senior Amateur Tuesday at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. Daley beat Roger Brown of Arkansas City, Kan., 1 up, in the second round.
Dennis Iden of Costa Mesa lost to Thomas Mattox of Humble, Texas, 2 and 1, in the first round.
Marianne Towersey of Newport Beach lost into the second round of match play at the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Tuesday at Cherokee Town & Country Club in Atlanta. Towersey, women's club champion at Santa Ana Country Club, lost to Claudia Pilot of Austin, Minn., 1 up. Former Big Canyon Country Club member Selby Schriber, who now lives in La Quinta, lost to Marcia Fisher of Canby, Ore., in the second round.