Dottie Pepper is returning to golf broadcasting, signing a deal with ESPN that she calls a perfect fit of TV work and promoting junior golf.
Pepper retired from NBC Sports in December after eight years because she was weary of the travel and wanted to devote her time to getting more juniors involved in golf. She joined the PGA of America as one of its board members.
"It's the dream fit," Pepper told The Associated Press. "I love what I do, and now I can do enough of it and still have a life. It's just the major championships, and next year I'll work eight events. It's fabulous."
Pepper will start work next month at Merion for the U.S. Open, and she has already been to the golf course. ESPN televises the weekday rounds of the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open and the U.S. Senior Open. ESPN has full coverage of the British Open, Senior British Open and Women's British Open. She already had planned to be at the Women's British Open because it's the final qualifying event for the Solheim Cup. Pepper is an assistant captain.
Next year, she will be part of the ESPN's weekday coverage of the Masters and Friday coverage of the Ryder Cup.
Pepper, a 17-time winner on the LPGA with two majors, will work on the course and in the booth during live play for ESPN. She also will be an analyst during the network's golf coverage on SportsCenter and write occasionally for the website. She was a contributing columnist for Sports Illustrated when she worked for NBC.
"We're very pleased to have the opportunity for Dottie to join our team," said Mike McQuade, vice president of production for ESPN. "Her knowledge, experience and professionalism will bring another layer of strength to our golf coverage."
Pepper said there was mutual interest when ESPN called, but it came with a caveat. She wanted to make sure that joining ESPN would not affect Judy Rankin, the longtime ABC Sports and ESPN golf analyst whom Pepper considers a close friend and mentor. It was Rankin who in 1999 suggested that Pepper be hired to work the U.S. Women's Amateur.
"I wanted to make it very clear to them that I was in no way wanting to displace Judy Rankin, who has been incredibly important to me as a player and a mentor," Pepper said. "They said there was no question we'd be working together. She's a legend."
Pepper said she missed working television during the Match Play Championship, the Florida Swing and The Players Championship, along with the relationships she formed at NBC Sports.
"I'm so competitive," she said. "That was my release."
She was headed to Long Island on Wednesday to play National Golf Links and to walk the course at Sebonack, which will host the U.S. Women's Open the last week in June. Pepper said she will be arriving later than usual for that one because she has a PGA board meeting in Oregon that week.
"I'm really excited to get back," she said.