The golf cart was just sitting there, begging someone to jump in and drive it through the front doors of the Marriott in Santa Clara, Calif. Karolyn Kirby and Liz Masakayan were up to the challenge. The two beach-volleyball stars hopped in and took a joyride down the hotel's hallways.
Kirby, 32, and Masakayan, 28, have brought the same devil-may-care attitude to the Women's Professional Volleyball Association tour this year. The onetime rivals teamed up this February and have simply rolled over their competition, winning seven of the eight events they've entered—and $47,750.
"When I heard they were teaming up, my partner and I started training against the best guys we could find," recalls Elaine Roque, a WPVA rival. "Because that's what they play like—guys. They are fast and faster."
Kirby and Masakayan, while teamed with other mates, had been the top two players on the circuit for the past three years, with Masakayan winning the tour's MVP award in 1992 and Kirby taking it the two previous years. In February their partners left for the new women's tour created by the Association of Volleyball Professionals, so the two looked to each other. "I had always admired Liz's competitive spirit," Kirby says.
Off the court, however, neither knew much about the other, despite the fact that they had played together on the 1986 U.S. national team and against each other on the beach since '87. Now they've found that they have much in common. Both lost their fathers when they were young and had strong mothers as role models. Masakayan's U.S.-born mother, Liz Lazur, and Filipino father, Joe, met while both were living in New York City, and they eventually settled in the Philippines. But when Liz was five, the couple separated and her mother moved to Santa Monica, Calif. Joe stayed behind in Manila, where he died five years later.
"We didn't have much contact with him after we left," says Masakayan. "My mother had four kids to raise." Masakayan made life easier by earning a scholarship to UCLA, where she was a two-time All-America.
Kirby's mother, Elizabeth, also became the head of the family after her husband, Richard, died soon after Karolyn graduated from high school in Brookline, Mass. "He didn't live to see my success," says Kirby, who also was a two-time All-America, at Utah State and Kentucky. "But I have to smile when I think about him. I had these two stud brothers who thought they were everything. My dad always told them I was the best athlete in the family. He was right." Opposing players can only hope Masakayan and Kirby split up, but that doesn't seem likely. "We're just beginning to see what we can do," says Kirby. "It was a lucky twist that brought us together." Not for the rest of the WPVA.
The top two players on the women's beach-volleyball tour, having joined forces, are routinely sandblasting their opponents.