GOLD TEE AWARD
Presented to an individual whose career achievements exemplify the best spirit and traditions of the sport of golf.
BY PATRICIA NORTON
Dottie Pepper has walked a lot of fairways since she took up the game of golf at age seven in her hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York, where she resides today. We have her grandmother Dorothy to thank for introducing the young athletic Dottie to golf as a sport to complement her love of skiing. Practice at a small local driving range with a set of seven Chi Chi Rodriguez clubs purchased by her grandmother started Dottie on the path to what was to become a stellar amateur and then professional career on the LPGA Tour.
At the age of 15, Dottie displayed her competitive spirit by winning the 1981 New York State Women’s Amateur and the New York Junior Amateur titles. She notched another Junior Amateur victory in her home state in 1983 and went on to take low amateur honors at the 1984 U.S. Women’s Open at Salem Country Club in Massachusetts. As a collegiate golfer on the Furman University women’s team, Dottie recorded five wins, earned All-American honors three times and twice was the school’s Female Athlete of the Year. In 1992, she was inducted into Furman’s Hall of Fame. In 2018, she became a member of the New York State Golf Association Hall of Fame.
In 1988, Dottie joined the LPGA Tour where she won 17 tournaments, including two major championships at the 1992 and 1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore. She represented the U.S. Solheim Cup team six times and posted an impressive 13-5-2 record. She was forced to quit tournament golf prematurely in 2004 at the age of 39 due to a series of injuries. Dottie’s competitive strengths were her work ethic, grit and all-consuming desire to win. Her reputation as a fierce competitor who was not afraid to show her emotions in the heat of the moment earned her the nickname “Hot Pepper.” Her legendary intensity even provoked one European Solheim Cup squad to put her face on a punching bag in their team room!
Dottie found her footing walking golf courses again for a living when in 2005 she gripped a microphone as a commentator for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel covering men’s and women’s tournaments. She unexpectedly retired in 2012 but returned to television work at ESPN in 2013 on a contract for a limited number of golf events.
Life as a TV golf reporter came naturally to Dottie. Early on, she earned high praise particularly for her thorough preparation. Longtime NBC Sports golf producer Tommy Roy called Dottie “unbelievably good” and remarked that she “always had an interesting tidbit about a player, the course or the event, possesses the special skill of knowing when to jump in and out and rarely interrupts or rambles.”
As the lead on-course reporter for CBS Sports since she was hired in 2015 to replace David Feherty, Dottie covers the PGA TOUR, the Masters and the PGA Championship. She is an insightful voice whose polished analysis, pithy commentary and repartees with the broadcast team capably convey the unfolding drama at each telecast.
Visit Dottie’s website and you’re greeted with these three words: Competitor, Announcer, Author. So, in her spare time when she’s not walking, she’s writing. Dottie’s co-authored two children’s books in the Bogey Tees Off series as a way to introduce kids and families to golf while promoting life lessons. Bogey, the main character, is an ambitious range golf ball that aspires to become a tour golf ball but has challenges to overcome.
In 2021, Dottie self-published a moving tribute to her first teacher, George Pulver Sr., a local Saratoga Springs instructor who laid the foundation for her successful career and had an enduring impact on her life. Letters to a Future Champion: My Time with Mr. Pulver was written during Covid as a remembrance to that special friendship. Dottie had saved some 145 notes, tips and letters that Pulver often would leave in the Pepper family mailbox and the book chronicles those exchanges. The exceptional volume was a finalist for the USGA Herbert Warren Wind Book Award for outstanding contributions to golf literature.
Dottie enjoys many interests off the golf course. She’s an avid gardener, dog lover, wine collector, reads World War II histories, visits farmer’s markets and likes fast cars. She has a deep and special love for Saratoga Springs and values the time that she and her husband David Normoyle spend together there.
Perhaps there is no finer testimonial about Dottie than that of a fellow golf commentator, Jimmy Roberts of NBC Sports. “I don’t know too many people who work harder—at anything—than does Dottie Pepper,” says Roberts. “I also don’t know too many people with a bigger heart.”
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