SARATOGA SPRINGS — In an age of brevity with text messages and tweets, a retired Hall of Fame golfer who lives in the city has self-published an audiobook framed on long-form letters to and from her mentor.
Dottie Pepper paid homage to her first golf instructor in her new book called “Letters to a Future Champion: My Time with Mr. Pulver.”
Pepper’s mentor, George Pulver Sr., died at age 87 in 1986, when Pepper was a junior in college.
Pepper, who won two LPGA major championships and 17 tour events, is the CBS network’s lead walking reporter for its coverage of the PGA Tour, Masters and PGA Championship.
A book signing is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ballston Spa Public Library.
Influential in the Saratoga Springs golfing region, Pulver was a founding member of the Northeastern New York PGA in 1927, and a founding member of the Northeastern Golf Superintendents Association.
Pulver, who also designed the first nine holes of the Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course, was a very good golfer in his own right, though he never liked to talk about it, Pepper said in a phone interview.
“He and his wife, Martha were essentially golf royalty, certainly in upstate New York, and I was fortunate enough to start working with him about the time I was 14, 15 years old,” said Pepper in describing their old-fashioned relationship as not just student-teacher, but “mentor and sponge.”
The two were prolific pen pals.
“We typed letters back and forth, and they weren’t just about lessons that he had given me on a driving range, or about feedback from tournament play,” she said.
“It was really ever-great lessons about education and grit and being able to dig into any moment, and the lifetime opportunity that golf and most sports can afford you, if it’s managed properly.”
Pepper said she had almost 100 letters from Pulver, and upon Pulver’s death, he left her a file of all the letters she’d written him.
The compilation, along with articles, helped her form the 208-page book.
“It was a pretty intense amount of information, and it was quite the ordeal and quite the concept to design something around them — because it is so different than what we have today,” Pepper said. “It’s not a digital file. It’s not a text. It’s not a tweet. It’s real stuff that you put your hands on.”
Most of the letters were on typing paper and are a bit “tender” after 40-plus years, said Pepper, who still writes letters and thank-you notes. She said she finds it “remarkable” that she still receives letters from Pulver’s adult children.
The work behind the book began during the state of emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and the piece aims to bring forth “something positive” from it, Pepper said.
“I had been advised about 10 years ago that the contents that I had in my own three-ring binder (of letters from Pulver) were definitely book-worthy and enough to have a book — maybe a booklet sort of summarizing what those letters contained,” she said.
The pandemic gave her ample time to carve out an entire book.
“Even when we went back to work at CBS in June of 2020, we weren’t allowed out of our rooms at night,” Pepper said. “So I wrote and I imposed deadlines on myself to get this to market.”
Book proceeds will go to the Saratoga Warhorse Foundation because Pulver was a World War 1 veteran. He was injured during battle but recovered and became a golf pro.
The Saratoga Warhorse helps veterans with post-traumatic stress improve their physical, mental and emotional health with healing equine-assisted experiences using off-the-track thoroughbreds.
Pepper said she’s happy to help the organization, because, like many charities, it suffered from fewer donations during the pandemic.
Most of the book project was with local help, except for hiring a Pittsburgh voice actor for Pulver’s voice on the audiobook, Pepper said.
Mike Lenz, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, oversaw the audiobook.
The technical engineer was Jeff Monty of Carr-Hughes Production, a video production company led by one of Pepper’s former high school classmates.
“Certainly now that we have supply chain issues and things are less than reliable, having stuff done locally is really much easier,” she said.
Pepper previously wrote three children’s books. But she said they were light and not as labor-intensive as the 10 months she spent on her latest work, which she suggests isn’t just for golf enthusiasts.
Youth sports is a big part of its message, with cautionary tales about burnout and not specializing at such an early age.
“For your mental health, when you feel like this isn’t fun anymore, take a break, and then get back into it when your heart tugs at you,” said Pepper, who also enjoyed skiing, bicycling and swimming as a youth, and intramural basketball at Furman University, where she was a three-time NCAA All-American in women’s golf, graduating in 1987.
“I think there’s a huge story of mentorship in here that can also be used for the layers of lasagna of a corporation and mentorship programs,” she said. “And it can be an example of how that mentorship doesn’t just need to be one generation to the next. He was 81 and I was 14 when we started working together.”
Pepper left Saratoga Springs for about 20 years to ply her trade on the LPGA tour. She retired in 2004. She then went into television and moved back to Saratoga Springs in 2009.
She’s a big endorser of her home city.
“From the arts to athletics, to great restaurants, to a small business mindset, to big corporations that are surrounding us, and to a good high school — it’s all right here,” she said. “There’s the farmers’ markets. It really is that city in the country where everything is available here.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.