Alcott's Poppie's Pond plunge: LPGA version of the Masters' green jacket

Posted in What's News by on March 28th, 2012

She never planned it, and she certainly had no idea that her one small step would result in a giant leap for women’s golf. But Amy Alcott is proud of her legacy as the first player to take the plunge into Poppie’s Pond after capturing the LPGA Tour’s first major championship of the season.

Alcott had drained her last putt on the final hole of the 1988 Dinah Shore Classic at Mission Hills Country Club when she inaugurated the custom of celebrating a win at Dinah’s event with a swim in the lake beside the 18th green.

“I wasn’t thinking anything, it was just a moment of excitement,” LPGA Hall of Famer Alcott told us Monday about her renowned splashdown to commemorate her first of three Dinah Shore titles. “The putt went in the hole to win the tourney and I looked at my caddie, Bill [Kurre], and said, ‘Bill, we’re going in the water.’”

Stacy Lewis' mother made a huge splash when she broke her leg jumping into Poppie's Pond in 2011 (Photo: Stacy Lewis via staciesback.com)

Much has changed over the years, including the name of the 41-year-old tourney, now the Kraft Nabisco Championship. And Alcott’s caper did not immediately inspire those who followed her to the winner’s circle to duplicate her dive. In fact, even after she and the iconic Shore bounced into the pond together following Alcott’s 1991 victory, the “champion’s leap” was still three years from becoming the cherished tradition it is now. Since Donna Andrews took the plunge in 1994, the victor’s gambol has become as coveted a prize as a certain Augusta couture.

“There’s a lot of robes out there,” tourney director Gabe Codding has said about each winner’s post-Poppie’s Pond attire. “It’s our version of the green jacket….It’s the great pinnacle to the end of a great week.”

The players agree.

“I don’t think, even if you really didn’t want to or you couldn’t swim, you still have to jump in or you’d be pushed in,” according to 2007 Kraft Nabisco champ Morgan Pressel. “It’s really an unbelievable tradition and something that I’m happy that I’ve been a part of.”

Golfers have taken all sorts of triumphant tumbles into the cement pool, which underwent a makeover six years ago. To ensure no one else would suffer the bacterial infection that benched Dottie Pepper after her 1999 splash, maintenance workers drained the lake, filled it with well water, and installed a new filtration system. One of the most memorable Poppie’s Pond celebrations came in 2008, when a five-piece mariachi band serenaded Lorena Ochoa as she and some 25 of her closest friends and family members waded in to revel in her Yani Tseng-like second straight major win and third title in four starts.

Should Stacy Lewis successfully defend her 2011 title, she has vowed to make the occasion a happier one for her mother, who tore a muscle in last year’s victory vault.

“I told her if I win again, she’s jumping in with me,” Lewis told the Desert Sun’s Larry Bohannan. “If I win again, it’s just me and her.”

As for Alcott, the 56-year-old, 29-time tour champion hosted several of her Hall of Fame friends in Monday’s second annual Dinah Shore Charity Pro-Am on Mission Hills’ Palmer Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Alcott established the tourney last year to honor Shore, whose support of the LPGA in the early 1970s was critical to the tour’s later success.

Thanks to Shore, the first Hollywood celebrity to host an LPGA event, women’s golf became a network television staple. Indeed, her 1982 event was the first tour contest to receive national TV coverage for all four rounds. Alcott’s event, in which 18 LPGA legends — including Jan Stevenson, JoAnne Carner, Rosie Jones, and New England’s own Pat Bradley — teed it up with top junior golfers (Stevenson’s team won the best-ball competition), benefitted the Park Century School, an institution that serves students with learning disabilities.

In her spare time, Alcott is co-designing the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro. She and renowned track architect Gil Hanse (who designed the Boston Golf Club and redesigned TPC Boston, site of the PGA Tour’s annual Deutsche Bank Championship) beat out seven other contestants, including the Jack Nicklaus-Annika Sorenstam and Ochoa-Greg Norman pairings, for the plum assignment.

Indeed, Alcott came up with the plan for a mixed-doubles duo to head up the project.

“It was my idea that the golf course be designed by a male and female team,” said Alcott, who also weighed in the remarkable play of a future Hall of Famer and this year’s odds-on favorite to revisit Poppie’s Pond.

“She certainly has a leg up on some other players right now,” Alcott said about Tseng, the 2010 Kraft Nabisco champ who’s aiming to win her sixth major, third straight match of the season, and fourth in six tries. “When players are on runs [like the one Tseng is on], they stand on the first tee and they already have a two-shot advantage.”

Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. View all her articles here. You may also follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer 

Reader Comments