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Original Issue

Back in the Groove

Betsy King got her old swing back and her life together to win the LPGA Championship by 11 strokes

Betsy King Learned her lesson at the LPGA Championship last week: If your swing ain't broke—no matter how ugly you think it looks—don't fix it. By trouncing the field at the Bethesda (Md.) Country Club by II strokes, the 36-year-old King not only restored her faith in her game but also shed any gloom that may have been lingering from a recent midlife crisis.

Last fall, when King, a 15-year tour veteran and a born-again Christian, began having what she calls "personal struggles." she took stock of her life. She soon discovered that she had few close friends and even fewer interests beyond golf and religion. "It helped me put golf in perspective," she says now. "I realized I needed to develop other relationships and other outlets."

One of those outlets at first complicated her life further. It was a beauty salon she opened in Phoenix, near her home in Scottsdale, Ariz. King's LPGA record—two Player of the Year awards and 25 victories—qualified as a thing of beauty in the golf business, but Betsy K was no Mary Kay when it came to the beauty business. Neither she nor the two friends from her church, a manicurist and a hair stylist, who operated the shop, knew much about running a business when they opened Betsy K's Salon in September. The enterprise struggled from the start, prompting King to attend small-business seminars, sit at the salon's reception desk scheduling appointments and sop up the red ink.

On top of all this, King decided her golf swing needed a make-over. She had been itching to tinker with it since viewing it on a videotape last summer. Yes, she was still winning tournaments (two in '91), but in her mind, at least, she didn't look good doing it. "Gosh, my swing finishes in front of my face too much." she told Ed Oldfield, her teacher of a dozen years. Oldfield, the architect of King's wide-arcing swing and high follow-through, told her not to worry. She didn't, not until another tape, one shot several weeks later, revived her concerns.

King sought a second opinion from Bob Dickman, a teaching pro from Golf, Ill., who had worked with Oldfield. Dickman agreed that she was due for an overhaul and suggested a new putting stroke as well. King dropped Oldfield and signed on with Dickman. At the start of this year, King was working to flatten the are of her back-swing and change her grip. The result was disastrous. She lost power and control. What's more, her new putting stroke made her equally erratic on the greens.

In her first three starts of '92, she tied for 66th, 30th and 62nd. Meanwhile she became a hostage to the video camera and even made her longtime caddie, Carl Laib, tape her during the pro-am at the Nabisco Dinah Shore in March. King finished 56th there, and Laib became fed up and quit.

That was enough to persuade King to replace Dickman with a third pro, Mike Adams of Austin, Texas, who revived her old putting stroke and combined elements of her original swing with some modifications. By the time King missed the cut at the Sega championship in mid-April, she was thoroughly confused and distressed. "I felt lost," she says.

That week King quit experimenting and ran back to Oldfield, who returned her swing to its old groove. Her play improved steadily. She tied for ninth in the two tournaments she entered before the LPGA Championship. Having finally returned to contention on the tour, King found that it was being dominated by the twentysomething generation.

The winners of the eight tournaments leading up to the LPGA Championship had all been younger than 30, but after King shot an opening-round 68 last Thursday, she warned that the LPGA Championship party would soon be checking IDs at the door. "Experience is important in majors," she said. "Veterans usually come to the fore."

King did just that, with a flourish, becoming the first player in LPGA history to shoot four sub-70 rounds (68-66-67-66) in a major. After trotting along the right side of the 18th fairway on Sunday and giving thigh-high fives to the gallery, she finished with a birdie and celebrated by throwing her ball into the crowd.

Now that she's back in the swing and her salon business is in the black, the only make-over King will consider is a shampoo, color and cut.



King threw the tour's young comers for a loop with four sub-70 rounds.