Pepper Honoured with GCSAA Award

Dottie Pepper.

Lawrence, Kansas, United States: Dottie Pepper, former LPGA Tour professional and current television golf broadcaster, has been named the recipient of the 42nd Old Tom Morris Award, presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

Pepper will be honoured on January 31 at the Sunrise Celebration as part of the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Old Tom Morris Award is presented to an individual who, through a continuing lifetime commitment to the game of golf, has helped to mould the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris. Old Tom Morris was a four-time British Open winner and the legendary greenkeeper at St Andrews in Scotland.

“Dottie Pepper has had a standout career as both a Major champion and a golf reporter,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “But she also has a deep appreciation for what goes into making the game happen and the work that superintendents do, which is why Dottie Pepper is an ideal recipient of the Old Tom Morris Award.”

Pepper won 17 events, including two Majors, during her 16 years on the LPGA Tour and represented the United States on six Solheim Cup teams before becoming a golf commentator in 2004.

She has covered the game for NBC, Golf Channel, ESPN and CBS, and she made history in 2020 when she became the first walking reporter on the grounds of Augusta National during CBS’s coverage of the Masters.

She showed an early interest in golf after her grandmother bought Pepper a Chi Chi Rodriguez junior golf club set when she was seven. Her father, former Major League first baseman Don Pepper, furthered young Dottie’s interest, building a driving range on the family’s farm in Saratoga Springs.

“It had well-manicured greens. I was never allowed to mow the greens, but I certainly mowed the fairways on the tractor in my youth,” she said. “I knew when it was time to aerate and put things to bed properly for the winter.”

Pepper came under the wing of PGA professional George Pulver when she was 14. She would later chronicle the impact Pulver had on her life in her book Letters to a Future Champion: My Time with Mr Pulver.

She thrived under Pulver’s tutelage. As a 15-year-old, she won the 1981 New York State Amateur and was the low amateur in the US Women’s Open in 1984. At Furman University, Pepper was a three-time All-American and graduated with a BA in health sciences in 1987. She joined the LPGA Tour in 1988.

After a stellar playing career that included winning the 1992 and 1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore (now known as The Chevron Championship), a 13-5-2 career record in the Solheim Cup and being named Player of the Year in 1992, Pepper retired from the Tour in 2004. Later that year she began her second act on television.  

“When she came to us, she immediately raised our broadcasts to a new level,” said Jim Nantz, Pepper’s CBS colleague and fellow Old Tom Morris Award winner. “She executes to perfection.”

Pepper’s preparation for telecasts often relies on superintendents. “I try to speak with the superintendent on a regular basis, especially those superintendents who have gone through a restoration or renovation because they’re the ones who are hands-on the whole time,” she said.

Off the course, Pepper lives in her hometown of Saratoga Springs with her husband, David Normoyle, and their miniature German Schnauzer, Rupert.

She is the seventh woman to win the Old Tom Morris Award, joining Patty Berg, Dinah Shore, Nancy Lopez, Judy Rankin, Annika Sorenstam and Renee Powell.

“When you put me in a group with Judy and Dinah and those others in the same sentence, it’s significant,” Pepper said. “This is the pinnacle, like Mount Everest, for a garden geek and dirt nerd like me.”

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