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Getting back on track
LPGA Tour player, Solheim Cup vice-captain and injured athlete. Pam Wright has been there, done that and got the T-shirt, but now she's planning a return to Europe, as she revealed to Colin Farquharson


Aboyne-born Pam Wright has lived in the United States since she attended Arizona State University in the 1980s and went on to play on the LPGA Tour.

She was Rookie of the Year in 1989, a season in which she had three top-10 finishes including a tie for second place in the Nippon Travel Classic. Through the first half of the 1990s Pam won lots of dollars on the LPGA Tour. Then shoulder problems started to handicap her and gradually her level of performance tapered off to the point where she lost her LPGA Tour player's card.

ScottishGolf: What were the injuries directly responsible for the gradual loss of form in the 1990s and where does your career stand now?
PW: Shoulder injuries and basically I just got burned out on it. I think one comes hand in hand with the other. I think if you're mentally not quite in the game then you tend to get injuries.

So I've spent the last six years getting fit again and I feel good about it. Both shoulders gave me problems, but primarily the left. I was told that basically it's just wear and tear after 30-odd years of playing golf.

It's just something I've had to live with and I've done other things. I went back to Arizona State University and finished my degree, graduating with honours in 1999. I gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, the study of people and behaviour. Very interesting. Really enjoyed it.

But I don't intend to make use of that qualification just yet. I want to play tournament golf again regularly. I did play this year. I did the Monday qualifiers in the States but that's no way to go. It's a very hard road.

But I decided my playing career wasn't over yet but, frankly, I couldn't afford to come back to Europe to play so it was easier for me to stay with friends and follow the LPGA Tour in the States and that's what I did.

I got through the Monday qualifying round twice. I played in two events and made the cut in the first one and played well in the second one but missed the cut by two shots, caught some bad weather, but no excuse really.

Then I went to the LPGA Qualifying School (Stage 2) tournament in October and got off to a good start but ran out of steam, pushing on the last day to make it and I failed.

It was only my third tournament of the year and to run out of steam was to be expected.

ScottishGolf: So where do you go from here?
PW: I've decided I'm going to play in Europe next year (for the first time). I'll be based back home in Aboyne and play as many tournaments as possible. I'm not going to the European Qualifying School. I'll try to get sponsors' invitations and start my comeback as a Tour player from there.

Now I'm not sure if that means as a Tour player in the States or a Tour player in Europe. I have a 'been there, done that' view of the LPGA Tour and maybe playing in Europe is the next logical step for me as a player.

It is so much nicer in Europe. The people are much more friendly for a start. I have a lot of friends here. I've been living in the States since 1985 when I went to university and I would still keep a base over there in Phoenix. From this break in Scotland, I'll go right back to work in Phoenix, teaching and other things. I've got my life over there.

The LPGA Tour doesn't really start again until March anyway so many of the American Tour players go out and look for jobs for the winter months. Unless you are in say the top-40 in the LPGA money table, you don't make enough for a living.

ScottishGolf: The LPGA handbook says you have earned (so far) $746,291 since your rookie year in 1989. There are a lot more dollars to be won on the LPGA Tour than there are in all the other female pro circuits in the world put together. Don't you feel that if you are fit to play and you want to play, then the United States is the place to be?

PW: I don't think the LPGA Tour is as glamorous as it once was in terms of financial rewards or making a career of it. So, I can't see me ever going back to that circuit with everything that's happened to me in the last few years, I'm a different person now.
I'm self-employed at a club in Phoenix, I give lessons, corporate days, after-dinner speaking, work with juniors... all the kind of things I would love to do here in Scotland but there's no market for me to work in over here.

I have yet to be approached on this side of the water to do any of these things. I would love to do some after-dinner speaking. I've had a lot of experience, I have a lot to say. I've also got to pay my bills and that's why I have to go back to Phoenix where I can earn a living doing these things.

So that's why I have to go back to spend the winter in the States unless they go to war. If there's some kind of war, I'll get my tail home here to Scotland. I don't want to be in America if there's any kind of unrest.

As far as me making a living, I would like to make one here during the winter. It would be great. So my current plan is to go back to Phoenix and work away until it's time to come back over for the start of the European Tour. I'm guessing that will be around May.
And then just play it by ear from there. Whatever it takes to get back on Tour, then I'm ready to do it. I'm not giving up on a playing career.

Even the Monday qualifying for the LPGA events cannot be ruled out if that's the way I have to go (not enough invites to play in Europe). You're only one tournament away from a great year you know.

I'm playing well. I feel I am as good a player as I once was. In fact, I have to believe I am a better player than I was because the standards have risen on the LPGA Tour since I was last a regular competitor.

Dad [Innes, who died late last year] was a key figure as regards my swing and technique and I've had to make big adjustments to not having his advice. I'm looking for someone to help me with my swing but it's got to be someone very special who doesn't fill your head full of stuff.
The worst thing you can do in golf lessons is to talk too much. I've got a very basic type of action. I know my swing pretty well by now so I just need someone to keep an eye on it.

I thought at one stage of my career that when I got to my age I might see myself just teaching, just doing corporate days and the like. But I feel I'm not done yet as a player. I've still got the desire to play - and to win.

Fact file
Born: Torphins, June 26, 1964.
International caps: At girls, junior and women's level for Scotland from the age of 12.
Played for GB&I in 1981 Vagliano Trophy match.
1980 Beaten in play-off for British women's open stroke-play. 1980-81 Twice beaten finalist in Scottish girls championship.
1985 Won Helen Holm Trophy women's stroke-play tournament. In America: Twice Pac-10 Conference champion and twice member of All-American women's college team. In 1988 she was Pac-10 most valuable playere and in 1999 was nominated for US Collegiate Player of Year award.
Turned professional: 1989.
1994 set US Women's Open nine-hole record with score of 30 on way to 65 in second round.
Pro team honours: Solheim Cup player 1990-92-94. Vice-captain 2000 and 2002.



©    30 - JANUARY 2003



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