LPGA Legend and CBS Sports Analyst Dottie Pepper Put Furman on the Map
A member of Furman’s Athletic Hall-of-Fame, Pepper’s list of accomplishments places her among the very best of not only the University’s athletes, but the entire golf world.
Furman University has produced its fair share of successful alumni. However, one of the most distinguished and well-known is Dottie Pepper. From Saratoga Springs, NY to Greenville, SC, and from the Ladies Professional Golf Association [LPGA] to CBS Sports, Dottie Pepper exemplifies the best of what Furman has to offer.
Pepper grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated from Furman in 1987. When asked about how she ended up at Furman, from rural upstate New York to South Carolina, Pepper explained that she did not expect to end up at Furman. Her college search focused on both academics and athletics. Pepper grew up in an athletic house; her father was a professional baseball player for the Detroit Tigers and, while she said there was no pressure for her to be an athlete, there was pressure for her to focus on school and academics.
So, Pepper concentrated her college search on finding a good academic school at which she could play golf. Pepper listed her search criteria as “location, interest, and sports…and we drew a geographical boundary with the Mason-Dixon Line.” One school that met the criteria was Clemson; however, Clemson did not have a women’s golf program at the time. Despite her confidence in her athletic future, Pepper said she needed “a backup plan.” That very plan was Furman. Furman checked all the boxes: a very intriguing school as a result of its’ academic reputation, but also the high-caliber athletic department.
Pepper’s golf success began early in life; she won multiple NY State amateur titles and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur. At Furman, Pepper was a three-time All-American, led Furman to a runner-up finish at the 1987 NCAA Championships, and propelled Furman to four straight appearances at the NCAA Championships, where she recorded three top four finishes. She was also awarded the Edna Hartness Award as Furman’s Female Athlete –of –the Year in 1985 and 1987 and took home Furman University’s Athlete –of –the Year honors in 1987. Finally, Pepper is a member of Furman’s Athletic Hall-of-Fame. Pepper’s list of accomplishments places her among the very best of not only the University’s athletes, but the entire golf world. Professionally, she won two LPGA major tournaments and won 17 times on the LPGA. She has also competed in Solheim Cups representing the United States and has won on a host of other tours. Her combined amateur and professional career and accomplishments place her in rare company; Pepper has cemented herself as one of the game’s greatest players, something she does not take lightly.
Despite her collegiate golfing success, Pepper noted that attending Furman was an “adjustment”; from the weather to learning southern culture, her time at Furman was not always easy, but Furman was a place that provided a plethora of tools for the future, even if she did not know what that future was. She described the academic culture as being “balanced…and [she] knew [she] could get a valued, useful college degree in four years.” Being a student athlete at Furman is something she values very highly: “school is actually a release…it is not just that competitive on the course experience.” Pepper said that Furman taught her many things, of which she thought the most important were accountability and responsibility.
Pepper’s playing career, along with her Furman education, helped her transition to her job as a sports journalist. Certain aspects of her time at Furman foreshadowed Pepper’s current sports analyst career at CBS: she felt she learned how to manage a schedule and take responsibility for her professional life and as a leader in the game of golf. She added, “Two major championships gave me credibility to do what I do now…I learned how to affirm people’s choices, question people’s choices and I’ve been in the cauldron.” Pepper has worked for every major sports and news outlet except FOX, including CBS, NBC, and Golf Channel. She explained, “My main task is to tell viewers something they otherwise would not know…to be able to be well-rounded is key to any career success.”
When asked about her decision to attend Furman, Pepper said she wanted to be part of the success that Furman Golf promulgates; she wanted to create a name for herself like several other athletes have done at Furman. She described the University’s golf programs in one statement: “legacy.” She said her view of other extremely successful athletes walking the grounds of Furman only affirmed her desire to attend the school: “Having Brad [Faxon] there, Mike O’Keefe, and others…and I think part of the legacy of Furman is that we all stay extremely connected…[Furman] has its little own story.” When asked to talk about the future of Furman Golf, Pepper said, “We’re going to continue being invested in what I believe, well, it is a lifetime sport at one of the best institutions in the country.”
If Furman truly does offer a “Furman Advantage,” no one has taken that advantage and run with it better than Dottie Pepper has. “The legacy [and University] is so special because it is such a small school… there is literally a Furman family.”