They don’t drape a green jacket around the winner of the ANA Inspiration.
No, they wrap the water-logged winner in a white robe in their own tradition unlike any other.
It’s a wet-and-wild custom Amy Alcott started in 1988 when she first dove into what would later be named “Poppie’s Pond.”
Sadly, the game will be deprived of seeing that custom unfold today, with the coronavirus pandemic prompting officials to move the major championship back to Sept. 10-13.
So, we’re left to wonder who would have made the plunge today, what kind of signature move they would have put into their dive and who would have joined them, because you never know what kind of pool party it’s going to become.
Two dozen family and friends rushed into the water with Lorena Ochoa in 2008, with a Mariachi band playing.
Patty Sheehan cartwheeled her way into the water after she won in ’96.
Annika Sorenstam performed an athletic, head-first dive when she won in 2001 and more gently waded into the water holding the hand of caddie Terry McNamara’s young daughter after she successfully defended her title the following year. She leaped in a third time in ’05.
Karrie Webb did a cannonball in ’06.
Pat Hurst, who couldn’t swim, carefully waded in back in ’98.
Morgan Pressel rushed in with her grandparents, Herb and Evelyn Krickstein, in ’07 as the youngest winner of a major at that time. She was 18.
Today, we're also left to wonder how a caddie might have stolen the show with a creative leap, because they’re a big part of the tradition.
It would take some work, because Sun Young Yoo’s caddie, Adam Woodward, delivered a memorable plunge in 2012, performing what was later described as a “flying squirrel” leap, with his arms and legs spread wide.
Lexi Thompson’s caddie, Benji Thompson, did a complete flip when he dove into the water with his player in 2014.
It’s a tradition Alcott still marvels seeing, because ...
“I didn’t have any clue what I was starting,” she said. “I was just embracing my happiness.”
Alcott didn’t theatrically plan that first leap in 1988. It wasn’t scripted. It was done on a whim, moments after she claimed the second of her three titles at Mission Hills. She turned to her caddie, Bill Kurre, that year and said, “Let’s jump in the water.” They did just that to the delight of the gallery.
“People tell me it’s one of the most iconic things in women’s golf,” Alcott said.
In all of golf, really.
Actually, it took Alcott’s second leap into the water to really launch the tradition in 1991. She took that leap with Dinah Shore, the popular Hollywood singer, actress and host of the event. Shore was more than a friend to tour pros. She was something of a mother figure.
Alcott’s own mother, Lea, died six months before she won the event for her third and final time in ’91. Shore knew the pain that brought, and Shore encouraged her that year.
“I saw Dinah in Los Angeles a few months before the tournament,” Alcott said. “She knew how close I was to my mother. She said, ‘You need to win my tournament again. You win it this coming year, and I’ll make the jump in the water with you.’”
Alcott didn’t know if Shore was serious, until Alcott was walking down the 18th fairway on the way to a runaway victory. She saw Shore watching from behind the green.
“Dinah always wore white pants with a red blazer at the event,” Alcott said. “But she was wearing black pants, and her assistant was carrying a robe.”
Alcott turned to her caddie, “I think Dinah was serious about jumping in the water."
Shore did, in fact, leap in with Alcott.
“The crowd went crazy,” Alcott said.
The leap’s a lot healthier now than it was when Alcott got the tradition started. Dottie Pepper caught a bacterial infection jumping into Champions Lake after she won in ’99. That led to a renovation, with the water there turned into what amounts to a swimming pool. The area was separated from the lake, with a concrete foundation created to hold fresh, filtered water. In 2006, it was named “Poppie’s Pond,” in honor of the long-time tournament director, Terry Wilcox, who retired in 2008.
“We all remember the different leaps the champions have done,” Sorenstam said.
If you’ll miss seeing the leap again today, here’s a look back at the tradition: