US Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon availed of her press conference at the US Women’s Open this afternoon to make the first controversial appointment of her tenure:
Golf Channel analyst and commentator Dottie Pepper will serve as one of two US vice-captains during the 2013 event, scheduled to take place at Colorado Golf Club (in, ehm, Colorado?) next year.
Pepper, a two-time winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, was a talismanic presence on US Solheim Cup teams throughout the 1990s, as adept at offending European sensibilities as accumulating points.
In the three Solheim Cups spanning the years 1994 and 1998, the New York native became embroiled in several fiery on-course confrontations, yet conspired (often literally) to return 10 points from a possible 11.
Somewhat ironically, given Pepper’s combative reputation, today’s appointment has been viewed largely through the lens of what surely ranks among her tamest Solheim Cup outbursts.
In covering the 2007 exhibition for the Golf Channel, Pepper referred to the US team as “choking freaking dogs”. The remark, intended as a private aside, was broadcast on live television and succeeded in drawing the ire of players and officials alike, several of whom she’s likely to encounter at Colorado Golf Club.
With lingering resentment over the incident in danger of negatively impacting team morale, the 46-year-old spent a portion of today’s press conference in tearful apology.
“I don’t know if there’s a broadcaster in sports that hasn’t said something that they don’t regret saying, whether or not it was intended for air. I reached out to the LPGA immediately to get a message that they could put my head on a plate if they so cared to…
“There was definitely a lot of hurt in both directions. I have had a number of players reach out to me. Some very upset, some not. But there’s not a day really that goes by that I don’t regret that it happened.”
[I demand further atonement! More tears!]
Mallon was similarly anxious to account for The Gaffe, casting it in light of her assistant’s notorious ruthlessness and prediliction for patriotic hysteria (well, she used euphemisms).
“When I got home and I listened to the telecast, knowing Dottie as long as I’ve known her, it just was Dottie in her passion and her passion for the game and her passion for the Solheim Cup. I know it wasn’t out of ill will by any par…
“That’s where I feel like Dottie needed to stop carrying this burden around. And that she needs to be a part of this event, and these players need to get to know the Dottie that I know.”
Watch. This. Space.