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CROWE'S NEST

Hall of Fame golfer Amy Alcott made one of the biggest splashes in LPGA history

In 1988, the effervescent Alcott celebrated her victory in the Nabisco Dinah Shore, an LPGA major, by jumping into a lake next to the 18th green. Thus began one of the most colorful traditions in women's golf.

March 20, 2011|Jerry Crowe

Water still draws Amy Alcott.

The LPGA tour Hall of Famer, famous for sparking a women's golf tradition by jumping into a greenside lake after winning the Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament, is often found churning laps at Southland swimming pools.

"I'm not a good swimmer," says the 55-year-old Alcott, "but I enjoy being in the water and exercising."

Nor has the winner of five major championships and 24 other LPGA tour events ruled out another leap into a lake.

On April 2, in conjunction with the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, she'll host the inaugural Fresh & Easy Dinah Shore Charity Pro-Am, featuring legends such as her, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan.

And if Alcott wins, she might wind up in the drink — even if no water surrounds the 18th green at the Palmer Course.

"I'd have to go over to the tournament course to jump in," she says during an interview near her home in Pacific Palisades, "but if I shot the low round, I'd probably do it."

Her initial leap, Alcott says, was uncalculated, a spontaneous reaction to a record-setting victory that made the Palisades High grad only the third woman to surpass $2 million in earnings, a figure previously reached only by Bradley and JoAnne Carner.

It was April 1988 and Alcott hadn't won in 19 months before tapping in a putt for a two-shot victory over Colleen Walker.

Neither Alcott nor longtime caddie Bill Kurre can say for sure whose idea it was to jump into the water. They do agree that they looked before they leaped, eyeing each other knowingly.

"It was just a moment of pure excitement," Alcott says. "That's part of my personality. I said, 'What the hell.' "

Says Kurre from his home in Las Vegas, where he is retired: "It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing."

Why would he think she'd want to jump into the water?

"We're both a little goofy," Kurre says. "That's just our personalities. We were like a brother and sister almost. We knew each other backward and forward.

"I knew she'd be up for it."

Alcott's mother died before she won the year's first major for a third time three years later. She says that Shore, in consoling her, told her that she'd been envious of Alcott's lake jump in '88 and urged her to win again in her mother's memory, this time making sure to include the tournament host in the splashy celebration.

Alcott won the tournament by a wide margin and Shore got her wish, Alcott and Kurre leading her into the water.

"Little did I know it would become a tradition that has followed forever and ever," Alcott says. "I even got a call from the New York Times one year because the gal that won didn't know how to swim and felt pressured to jump into the water."

Actually, it wasn't until 1994 that a winner other than Alcott took the plunge. Donna Andrews' dip that year in honor of Shore, who had died only a few weeks earlier, cemented the tradition of the "Champion's Leap" that started with Alcott.

Every Kraft Nabisco Championship winner since has wound up in the water, though not all with Alcott's exuberance.

Alcott, meanwhile, never won another LPGA tour event.

She spent years chasing her elusive 30th victory, at the time a requirement for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Finally, a points system was installed and she was inducted.

Still, the pressure wore her down.

"I would always have to answer the same questions," Alcott says. "I remember my standard line was: Another win is not going to tell me anything I don't already know about myself."

What she knew was that from a young age, when she used to sneak onto the course at Riviera Country Club to practice, she found golf to be an artistic endeavor she pursued with a tireless passion.

"I had a gift and I didn't mind the hours and hours of being alone, the solitude of the game," she says. "And that developed over time into: I just wanted to be as good as I could be. No one ever had to tell me to go practice. My nickname was 'One More' Alcott — Just one more, Mom, one more."

Jim Murray wrote that Alcott played the game with a "pure joy," once noting that she "always manages to look as if somebody bought her a balloon or told her a funny story."

She still looks that way.

She talks excitedly about her various projects, including teaching and mentoring, public speaking and bidding to design the golf venue for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Alcott is so busy that she plays golf only once a week.

She has hosted a radio show, written an instructional book and taped an instructional video. Two years ago, she wrote "The Leaderboard: Conversations on Golf and Life," a series of interviews she conducted with figures such as former President Clinton, Kenny G, Steve Kroft, Pam Shriver and Dennis Quaid.

She considers them all friends.

"Reaching some goal or some vision you had for your life, getting to the top, is an amazing thing," Alcott says. "But I think as you get older and you consider the climb and the twists and turns of competition and the character building, those are the things you look back on and think, 'That was really cool.' "

Or, occasionally, cool and wet.

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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