PHOENIX – U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon did it again.
She stunned golf fans with yet another unexpected move as the American skipper.
Eight months after naming Dottie Pepper an assistant captain, Mallon on Wednesday introduced Laura Diaz as her second assistant during a news conference at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.
For those who’ve lost track, Pepper was a stunning choice because she appeared to be in U.S. Solheim Cup exile with resentment lingering over a comment she made about the American team during the ’07 Solheim Cup in Sweden. Pepper called the Americans “choking freaking dogs.” She blurted the comment as a Golf Channel analyst believing she was off the air for commercial.
Diaz was a stunning choice because Pepper’s comment appeared to be aimed at Diaz and playing partner Sherri Steinhauer.
“Life’s too short,” Mallon said. “I think if they’re OK with it, the rest of us are OK with it. I’m happy about it.”
Diaz said fences are mended.
“It's all behind us,” she said. “We’ve spoken a lot since then.”
Pepper was asked her reaction when Mallon first told her she was going to name Diaz as an assistant.
“I started laughing,” Pepper said. “Holy smoke, who would ever have thought?”
Even Pepper was amused by the irony and anticipated reactions in Upstate New York, where Pepper and Diaz grew up. Though Pepper once dated Diaz’ brother, there was serious frost on the Pepper-Diaz relationship after Sweden. Late in the summer of 2008, almost a year after the Solheim Cup controversy, Diaz told reporters how much the comment still hurt her.
“Dottie was a family member to me, and I don't even see her as a friend anymore,” Diaz said back in ’08. “I think that it was a really low blow and highly disappointing, really, because I think that as a golfer you appreciate golf and what we are doing out here. It really affected us in our hearts. Sherri and I thought it was ridiculous, really.”
That all became ancient history with Diaz joining Mallon and Pepper in Wednesday’s news conference.
Pepper said the frost really began melting on the relationship with Diaz when they both did TV work during the 2011 Solheim Cup.
“We were in the same compound,” Pepper said, adding that there wasn’t a singular moment where all was forgiven.
“We just moved along,” Pepper said.
Liselotte Neumann will captain the European team, which won the 2011 Solheim Cup in Ireland. This year's edition takes place Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club, outside Denver.