In her hour previous seasons on the LPGA tour, Dottie Mochrie found her deep-seated intensity more a curse than a blessing. Though she had two tournament wins and a bank account that was swelling with prize money, Mochrie, a former All-America at Furman, was battling recurrent stomach problems and earning a well-deserved reputation among her colleagues as a grouch. But at the Nabisco Dinah Shore last week, the 26-year-old Mochrie turned the flame under her emotions down low enough to win her first major tournament championship.
The person responsible for Mochrie's new attitude was the guy who shares her toothpaste, checks her backswing and helps her read greens—her husband, coach and caddie, Doug. A 34-year-old Troy Donahue-look-alike, Doug has known Dottie for 11 years, since she was a talented teenage golfer in her hometown of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and he was a club pro at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club.
Back then, her competitive fires were being stoked by her father, Don Pepper, a former minor league first baseman who one September made it to the bigs to back up Norm Cash with the Detroit Tigers. Pepper was his daughter's first golf coach, and he caddied for her a few times when she first joined the tour. The last time—three years ago at the du Maurier Classic in Canada—he got so carried away with her play that he neglected to muffle his four-letter reaction when she missed a putt. "He makes me look like a pansy," Mochrie says.
Actually, the icy gaze from Mochrie's blue eyes usually prompts comparisons with LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, renowned for her tournament intensity and her trademark stare. But much to the dismay of her spouse, Mochrie's emotions weren't so stony. On the course she often sounded more like a circus trainer than a golfer, angrily ordering her disobedient shots to "Bite!" "Sit!" or "Stop right there!" Sometimes one bad drive or pulled putt was enough to unsettle her for the rest of a round.
Since becoming his wife's full-time caddie in 1990, Doug has slowly convinced Dottie that to win more she has to care less. "She tries so hard," he says, "she's like a walking time bomb."
Walking hospital ward is more like it. In seasons past, Dottie has been plagued by stress-related ailments such as a hiatal hernia, colitis and ulcers. Doug's prescription was a more mellow attitude, like his own. "I just live every day for the next day because I've seen too many people ruin their lives by trying to do too much too fast," he says.
Earlier this year Mochrie became an LPGA millionaire faster than any tour player in history (four years, 15 days), but a long winless spell and concern for her physical well-being persuaded her that some soul-searching was warranted. "I'm learning to take the bad days better," she says. "This isn't a matter of life and death."
Fellow players now say she is a lot more fun to be around, and at the Dinah Shore she uttered only an occasional "Sit" or "Bite." Starting Sunday's final round two shots behind two-time Shore winner Julie Inkster, Mochrie promptly missed the first green and then watched her putt lip out for bogey. This time, though, she hung tough for the rest of the round, parlaying four birdies and 13 pars into a tie with Inkster, who blew a chance to win when she left a five-foot birdie putt short on the 18th hole.
All Mochrie had to do to seal her first LPGA title in two years was tap in for par on the first playoff hole. "Normally I would have been crawling out of my skin," said Mochrie afterward. "This time, I just tried to play it low-key and hang in there." That was Doug's idea all along.
Mochrie kept her cool and overtook Inkster to win her first LPGA major.