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My Shot: Peggy Kirk Bell

Continued (page 2 of 2)

Annika Sorenstam won the first U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles, in 1996. Whether she can reach Kathy Whitworth's record of 88 tour wins [Sorenstam has 69] is less dependent on her bad back than whether she'll decide to have children. It's one thing to be a good pro golfer when you have children—I had three, and I can tell you that women have it much harder than men—but being a dominant player is something else entirely. No woman has ever done it. Annika likes challenges, and I'm not saying breaking that record while having kids is impossible. But it will stretch the odds considerably.

When Michelle Wie comes back from that wrist injury, I hope she doesn't hit as many punch shots. Even Tiger Woods says Michelle isn't strong enough yet to be hitting so many of them. She even hits punches with her driver and long irons. She misses a lot of shots to the left, as tends to happen when you abbreviate your swing. A full swing is more in character for her. And she'll be less likely to re-injure that wrist.

I was at the Memorial Tournament when Barbara Nicklaus was inducted into the Captains Club. It's a big honor, and when I looked over at Jack, tears were streaming down his face. When Jack was winning all those majors, he didn't try to come off as being overly proud. But on this day, he pulled out the stops. It was like seeing a different person. It was one of the most touching things I've ever seen.

Babe hit the ball a ton.I asked her how she got such amazing distance for being only 5-feet-7. Using her right hand, she reached over her left shoulder and patted herself just above her shoulder blade. "I take it away with this muscle on the backswing, then hit it," she said. That muscle in the upper left side of your back is a key one. If you can stretch it out like a spring going back, you'll get incredible speed coming down, and a lot more distance.

At Pine Needles we play the "root rule." When your ball is near a tree root, you get relief sufficiently to get clear of the tree root. Why? Because a $5 nassau isn't worth tearing up your wrist and ruining your career in golf. Now, when you're playing in a tournament and you've got a root to contend with, the key is to grip the club very lightly and keep it very loose through impact. You almost throw the clubhead at the ball. With tight muscles, the tendons and ligaments tear. Loose ones give a little.

Two parts of teaching I don't hear enough about these days are the waggle and forward press. Tommy Armour taught me to make my waggle as if it were a miniature swing, the clubhead moving away from the ball and back to it on a slight inside path. The waggle relaxes your muscles and sets the stage for a good swing. As for the forward press, a little move of the hands or the knee signals you to start the swing and establishes rhythm. Both the waggle and forward press can be a little individualistic. But you've got to have both of them.

Jack Nicklaus has such nice penmanship. So does Arnold Palmer. Younger players, you can hardly read their names. Penmanship disappeared when companies stopped putting players' names on clubs.

I took a lesson recently from Mike Hebron, a PGA Master Professional. I told him I needed more distance. "Peggy, how old are you?" he asked. "I'm 85," I answered. Next he asked, "When did you start playing?" I told him, "When I was 17." Mike paused a long time and said, "After 68 years in this game, you still care. I think that's just remarkable." I've always thought of the word "caring" in other contexts and never thought of it as the greatest quality a person can have. But I've changed my mind. If you simply care, all kinds of good things run off from that.

Peter Gregoire
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