This weekend, on Golf Channel's telecast of the Kia Classic at La Costa Resort, Rankin returns to television for the first time since the U.S. Women's Open last summer. She wondered whether it was too soon, while friends advised her that maybe this was the best way. "That's what everybody tells me," she said, "but we'll see. I don't know. It seems pretty quick to me, but sometimes it seems months ago to me." She chose to return here to get past this step in advance of working the LPGA's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship next week in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "I needed a little something under my belt before I went to Kraft," she said. "It's emotional only in the sense he had been involved in everything I did since I was 21 years old. I definitely feel that something's not there. I don't have somebody to call and tell me 'that wasn't that great' or 'you really had a good day,' one of those things. He was a very honest critic. He watched a vast majority of what I did, ever, so not having that sounding board is different for me."
The Women's Open last year was played at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Rankin and Yippy drove from their home in Midland, Texas. "He was not doing well, but he was well enough to be there," she said. "He drove a little bit, but I did most of the driving. He didn't have a whole lot of strength, but he got to see a lot of people there. "I got him to the bleachers at 18 one day. Myra and Worth Blackwelder's daughter Mallory was finishing and Myra [a former LPGA player] walked by me as I crossed a bridge as I went out to do some work. She asked how he was. I pointed to him and said 'he's sitting up there watching.' Myra went and sat with him about an hour, visiting with him. They talked about everything, old and new. Things like that made this trip really nice."
It was, too, a prelude of the outpouring of support that Judy would receive in the wake of his death. "I cannot even tell you," she said. "He would have been completely stunned at the number of people who cared, particularly when everything was so dark the last couple of years. Between family and friends, television family, golf family, all that, and his personal friends, it has been stunning."