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Original Issue

A So-Called Career

Winters are the worst. I spent two of my past three winters
working in a record store and a restaurant. Glamorous, huh? At
least I've learned that while golf is a tough way to make a
living, it beats selling Tupac CDs or chopping lettuce.

After three years as an All-America at LSU, I joined the tour
full time in 1995 and was overwhelmed. It's a huge leap from
college to the LPGA, and I was nervous and self-conscious,
afraid I didn't belong out there with Nancy Lopez and Annika
Sorenstam. And maybe I didn't. In three years on tour I've made
11 cuts. Last year I earned $7,607 in 25 events, an average of
$304.28. That's not enough when you pay your caddie $500 a week.
So I economize. I share a place in Tampa with three roommates
and drive to every tournament I can. Last week I drove 11 hours
from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the City of Hope Classic,
putting another 500 miles on my '94 Honda Civic, which already
has 74,000 on it. That Civic is so important to my career that
my dad calls me to ask, "How's the car?" He worries, but I
assure him I don't do stupid things on the road. I don't drive
more than six or seven hours in a row, usually, or pull into
rest stops when I'm alone.

Is my career worth the effort? I wish I knew. I don't want to be
30 and broke. But there are good times: Last fall I had my best
finish, a tie for 31st at the Safeway Championship, and Kelly
Robbins came up and shook my hand. "Good job, Kristi. Keep
going," she said.

I can hit the ball with any of them. My short game needs work,
but it's improving, and so is my mental game. I'm getting
tougher, starting to believe that it's only a matter of time
until I win. Maybe I'd be smarter to get a real job, but I think
I'll take Kelly's advice.

Dad, the car's hanging in there, and so am I.

Kristi Coats, 26, came in 67th at the City of Hope and won $824.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER COATS CHECK Kristi wonders if it's time to hang it up [Kristi Coats]