Amy Alcott is a golfer and golf course designer. A member of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, she became a professional at age 18 and won five major championships and 29 LPGA Tour events over her 27-year career. Before speaking at the Zócalo/ASU Global Sport Institute event, “How Have Women’s Sports Changed Since Title IX?,” she called in to the green room to chat about golfing with presidents, finding inspiration in space, and singing “What’s Love Got to Do with It” during bus rides through Japan.
What is the funniest thing you’ve hit with a golf ball?
I have unfortunately hit a person before, but that was a big gallery of people. I did hit a duck. But it ended up surviving, so that was good.
How did you get in trouble as a kid?
I was really a pretty good kid. I think the same thing that made me gravitate to golf, that introverted quality, made me a great golfer. Spending hours and hours and hours perfecting a craft when you’re a kid—you’ve got to be pretty comfortable being alone in your own space. Even when you become famous, nobody ever sees the work that you did when you were 15 years old. They see the greatness when you make the winning putt, but they don’t ever see the hours of time that went into that.
When I used to putt for M&Ms and dimes into Campbell’s soup cans in the front yard, I used to say, “This is for the U.S. Open.” And I had that chance to putt for the U.S. open a few times and won one of them. It’s pretty cool.
Is it true that you used to climb under the fence and go putt with Rita Hayworth?
Yes. I used to sneak under the fence at Riviera Country Club [in Los Angeles]. My parents didn’t play golf, so we weren’t members anywhere. Eventually I joined the Riviera Country Club, but during those early years sneaking under the fence, I would run into all kinds of movie stars there: Dean Martin, who became one of my sponsors, Rita Hayworth, and there was Jim Backus, who was the voice of Mr. Magoo.
If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?
I’d be an artichoke. A lot of texture.
What’s your next big project?
I want to do a documentary about my life. There’s a lot people don’t know, and I think that it could inspire young women, especially. I’ve never really sat down and done an autobiographical kind of thing.
What something that you’d like to share there?
I’m really lucky to have had the parents that I had. They were amazing. My parents both died when they were young—61. I’m 65 now. My sister and I have outlived [our parents], and my brother lived until 69. When you have parents that pass away young, you don’t have the gift of that time, but I was really lucky. My mother used to tell me, “Follow your bliss.” She didn’t understand my obsession about golf, and why I wanted to petition the principal (who was a golfer) to leave high school at 12:00.
I had a career—and then I graduated high school. Turning pro at such a young age, going out on the road, and really learning how to take care of myself… there’s a lot of interesting things about my life. When most kids are going to college, I was staying in people’s homes all around the country, trying to show off my craft and be one of the best woman golfers that ever lived.
When in your life did you experience the most culture shock?
I think probably within the last year and a half. I’ve never seen so much societal change on a daily basis.
What's your favorite household chore?
Sweeping the kitchen floor and raking things. I find it very relaxing.
You published a book of interviews with 27 people about the relationship between golf and life. What was the most intimidating interview that you conducted?
Even the most famous people, presidents that I’ve played with—Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford—they’re intimidated by the sport of golf. They love it because it’s something you can’t master. They all want to know what the secret is. And there is no secret. It changes every day.
You've mentioned that winning is rare in golf. Does it get easier to lose?
No. The word “lose” is not in my vocabulary. It might become easier to accept tough things the more you experience, where you thought you had the event won and somebody played better. But losing, no. You don’t lose at golf.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
“What’s Love Got to Do With It.” We used to have long bus rides on my 40 trips to Japan [on tour]. So we used to put on music and dance, and those were some of the best, best times. Kathy Whitworth and I won the grand prize singing “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”