LPGA hopefuls tee up futures

Golf: For Gayle Wallace and Kim Turner, collegiate standouts in sports other than golf, the chance of someday playing on the women's tour is enough to keep them going.

August 03, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

They are both former college All-Americans. Gayle Wallace achieved that status in two sports, softball and basketball, for three years at Worcester State in Massachusetts. Kim Turner was chosen four times in field hockey at the University of Maryland, and scored on a crucial penalty stroke to help the Terrapins win the 1987 national championship.

Wallace and Turner share more than a similar past.

They also share an uncertain future as professional golfers.

When the SBC Futures Tour visits The Links at Erie Village in York, Pa., for this week's YWCA Briarwood Futures Open, Wallace and Turner plan to be there. They are literally learning on the job, trying to scratch out a living while trying to become scratch golfers -- and better -- in hopes of someday playing on the LPGA Tour.

Considering how new they are to the sport, neither Wallace nor Turner says she has even begun to scratch the surface. Wallace, 31, started playing in 1994 while working as an occupational therapist in Boston. Turner, 32, took the game up 2 1/2 years ago after a series of unfulfilling jobs.

"It's hard because I didn't play college golf like most of the players out here," Turner said recently in Killington, Vt., where a pair of 83s sent her packing up after two days of a three-day event for the 10th time in 13 tournaments this year. "I'm learning how to play mentally."

After moving to Annapolis at age 12, Wallace played everything but golf at Broadneck High School. The youngest of eight children, Wallace had never picked up a club until one of her older brothers took her to a local driving range and then to a golf course in Queenstown during one of her visits home.

But that was when Wallace was working as an occupational therapist, before she decided to move to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where she went to work in the pro shop at PGA National. She also began taking lessons and playing at every opportunity. She started on the Futures Tour in 1996.

Though she has chopped five strokes off her average in the past three years, Wallace is still far from fulfilling her dream. She has cashed just two checks -- for a total of $275 last year -- while being sponsored by friend and business executive Ray Dunn.

Wallace still works as an occupational therapist during the winter to help pay for what has essentially become an expensive hobby. Though she stays in private housing whenever she can while out on the Futures Tour, Wallace estimates that it can cost up to $40,000 a year to pursue her goal of playing on the LPGA Tour.

"As long as I'm improving, I'm going to stay out here," said Wallace. "Finances are one of the biggest issues."

And what was the reaction of her parents and friends back in Annapolis, many of whom will make the drive up to York for today's opening round?

"At first, they thought I was crazy," said Wallace. "But now they're all very supportive."

Kim Turner had achieved athletic success at an even higher level than Wallace. She played in five U.S. Olympic Festivals and played on the under-21 U.S. field hockey team. She even appeared on national television -- as a member of singer Michael Bolton's traveling softball team.

That was when she was working for one of Bolton's personal managers, who had met Turner while she was a dog groomer in Manhattan. She had been living in New York during her marriage to former Maryland football player Keith Bullock. The marriage eventually broke up, and Turner wasn't sure what she wanted to do.

"When I turned 30, I was working in a job that wasn't going anywhere, I was in another bad relationship and I was living in a city that I didn't want to live in anymore," recalled Turner.

As a present for her 30th birthday, Turner's mother had given her a set of old golf clubs. Bolton had given her a set of new Callaway woods. And Turner decided to move to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For three months, Turner managed a singer who she said had a lot of talent but lacked dedication.

Turner quit.

"I started hitting balls for four hours a day on the range," she said. "I was playing a par-3 course one day with my brother and after hitting a good shot, I turned around and said to him, `I'm going to be a professional golfer.' "

Two years and six teachers later, Turner is still trying to become one. She has failed to earn a penny in nine events this year, and has missed the cut in five of them. Consistency is not her strong suit: Turner can just as easily get a quintuple-bogey 8 on a par-3 as she can birdie it.

Turner's late father, Howard, was a club pro outside Philadelphia before he was killed in an automobile accident when she was 10. Having moved back home with her mother in Kennett Square, Pa., Turner has started taking lessons from one of her father's old friends, Harry Hammond, a club pro in Exton, Pa.

"I haven't had it yet to lose it," said Turner. "I'm really not ready to be out here yet, but I'm getting a lot of great experience. I'm 32 years old and I've been through a lot of difficult stuff since college. This is something I can do. It's something I want to do for myself."

One day, Turner hopes to draw on the experience of that long-ago penalty stroke against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She hasn't forgotten the feeling before she took it and after she made it, helping forge a 1-1 tie and force overtime. The Terrapins eventually won, 2-1.

"I know if I get under the gun, I can make it," she said.

Like Wallace and many others on the LPGA's developmental tour, Turner has a long way to go.

But not too far to dream.

Pub Date: 8/03/99

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