My Shot: Laura Baugh

Laura Baugh

"There's no silence more crushing than being alone in a hotel room after being around seven kids. So I buy a stuffed animal for company and then take it home to the kids."

January 2004
Proud pro comes clean on Colonel Sanders, 'bleedouts' and living on two hours of sleep.

Age 48 • Orlando, Florida

I've been around. I played with Colonel Sanders once. The Colonel Sanders, the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy. I was only 17, and what a weird experience that was. Talking to him was like talking to a Disney character. He looked odd in a golf shirt. I just couldn't get over it. What shocked me was, the Colonel could flat hit it. He told me he loved golf more than chicken.

I'm not a "Mrs." because I'm not married anymore. I don't like "Ms." and I'm sure as heck not a "Miss." I'm just Laura Baugh.

I'm also Fertile Myrtle. I have seven kids. If I were still married, I'd probably have 15 by now. Bushels of them. If a good man came along and the setting was right, it would be a blessing to have more.

I finished second 10 times on the LPGA Tour. At first I figured the wins would come later, and that I'd do the commercials and stuff to make money and concentrate harder on my golf after I was all set. But I never did win. I started having babies, and when I teed it up between children, I found more ways to get beat than you can imagine.

My 6-year-old started first grade a few months ago. For the first time in 21 years I had five hours a day to myself. It was a shocking thing, because for two decades straight I either had a baby in me or on me. So what do I do now? Well, the first day I got my nails done. That was neat. The next day it was like, What do I do now? I called a friend, and she told me I needed to get a hobby. That seemed like a good idea. So I decided to take up golf.

After I drop the kids off at school, I go to Perkins for breakfast. Tiger Woods comes in a lot with Mark O'Meara and John Cook. Tiger always walks in with a cell phone to his ear, pretending he's talking so no one will bother him. I've sat there over my coffee and watched him. Man, is he gorgeous or what?

I can't remember not playing golf. I won the National PeeWee five times, the first time when I was 3. It was a three-hole tournament, all par 3s. I won my division by, like, 35 shots. I was a talented little thing, but remember, this was 1958. There were only three girls in my division.

My dad insisted that I play golf every day. Sometimes it was too much for a little girl. There was a theater in town that had Saturday matinees. The other 10-year-old girls at school got to go to the movies, and I desperately wanted to go with them, but my dad wouldn't let me. "We play golf on Saturdays," he said. I got very angry, but I accepted it, and, in a way, liked it. My whole life, I couldn't play enough golf.

There's this debate as to whether Michelle Wie's parents are doing the right thing, having her compete so much at such a high level at so tender an age. It's a moot point discussing it now, because the cat's already out of the bag. Once you give a kid a taste of something as grandiose as what she's experienced, there is no living way you can roll it back. It would almost be cruel. Did you know Michelle wears a size-11 shoe? It's amazing, but it's true. And she'll never wear a size 10 again.

My mom and dad divorced when I was 11. My mom and I moved from Florida to Long Beach, Calif. She got us into a studio apartment there. Olive Avenue, No. 3B. It was in a bad neighborhood. The rent was $40 a month. I lived on a diet of popcorn, lemon-chiffon ice milk and Omega hamburgers. I was cold, hungry and scared. It was a strange time, because right in the middle of it, at age 16, I won the U.S. Women's Amateur. I traveled alone; my dad sent me a standby airline ticket, and I stayed in private housing. There was all this opulence amid the poverty we lived in.

A lot of us kids snuck onto the public courses around town. We'd get kicked off, then sneak right back on. Once we snuck onto the same course three times in one day. For kids who can't afford to play, I have no problem with them sneaking on, so long as they leave the course as they found it. They say there's no such thing as a victimless crime, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for the "victim" in this case.

We didn't have a TV until I was 17. My mom and I only watched TV when we went to my grandparents' house, where I had to watch a lot of "Bonanza." Since there was no TV, I read all the time. Because of that, I graduated from high school two years early, when I was 15, with a 4.0 grade-point average. Stanford offered me a full-ride academic scholarship when I was 17 — just when I was catching reruns of "Bewitched" and "Gilligan's Island."

I turned Stanford down. IMG [International Management Group] offered me $1,000 to turn pro and go to Japan, all expenses paid. How could I refuse? It seemed like a fortune. Stanford didn't have a golf program, so there would have been no golf. By taking IMG's offer, I figured I'd play professionally for a few years, then quit and go back to school. It didn't work out that way. It never does. You think Tiger Woods is going to go back to college, ever? Please.

My second boyfriend was also my first husband. The marriage lasted a month. He beat me up on our wedding night, and it got worse. Sam Snead, of all people, knew about this guy. "Be careful, Laura," he said. He phoned me a lot to see how I was doing. When the marriage ended, Sam called. "I knew he was bad," he said, "but I couldn't tell you." Sam always looked out for me. He had softness about him a lot of people didn't know about.

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