Scotia native Laura Diaz was appointed vice captain of the U.S. Solheim Cup team Wednesday, pairing her with Saratoga Springs native Dottie Pepper six years after their friendship seemingly ended over Pepper’s blunt televised comment during the matches.
Diaz, selected by captain Meg Mallon to join Pepper as an assistant for the August matches against Europe at Colorado Golf Club, was the most vocal critic after Pepper referred to the U.S. players as “chokin’ freakin’ dogs” during Golf Channel’s coverage of the 2007 event. Believing the network was in a commercial break, Pepper made the comment after Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer settled for a halve when Steinhauer missed a three-foot putt on the 18th.
“I think in most friendships, words are said that people don’t like,” Diaz said at the LPGA Founders Cup. “Sometimes, it takes a little time to get over, and sometimes, it takes a longer time. … We both are very passionate about the Solheim Cup.
“As much as Dottie and I have shared, I’ve known Dottie since I was 10 years old, so there’s a lot more that goes into it than just she was a commentator. I would like to believe that she was playing that match with me and she was feeling what I was feeling, and words came out that, you know, they were just words.”
Pepper reiterated that she thought she was off the air when she made the comment.
“I made one crucial mistake,” Pepper said. “It was breaking a broadcast rule that you’re never supposed to root, and I did, and the switch wasn’t off when I did, and I said something that I have said to myself numerous times, and it happened to go out over the air. But I think the thing that is most important to remember about the Solheim Cup itself is that while it drives passion and that can sometimes scar a friendship, Solheim Cup is also way bigger to mend it again.”
Mallon thinks the fiery duo will make perfect assistants.
“If they’re OK with it, the rest of us are OK with it, and I’m happy to see this,” Mallon said. “And I’m no dummy. These two love this event, and they should be together enjoying this event together, so I’m happy about it.”
Diaz plans to play a full schedule this season, and hopes to qualify for the U.S. team.
“When I talked to Laura about it, I knew she was playing a full-time schedule, and I felt that Laura could easily have a big year this year and make the team,” Mallon said. “I felt that she could do both, be a playing assistant if that came around, so I didn’t have a problem with that whatsoever. I just knew I needed Laura on this team and by our side.”
Diaz, a four-time Solheim Cup player, won her two LPGA Tour titles in 2002.
“It is the greatest honor in my career,” Diaz said. “When Meg asked me, I was really just in awe, surprised, shocked.”
Liselotte Neumann will captain the European team, with fellow Swedes Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch serving as vice captains.
Europe won the 2011 event in Ireland. The Americans lead the series, 8-4, going 6-0 at home.