Janice Moodie didn't come out on the LPGA Tour this year with Kelli Kuehne's corporate bankroll or the international hype of Korea's Se Ri Pak. Nor was she a total unknown, having been a four-time first-team All-America at San Jose State.
But three months into her rookie season, the 25-year-old from Scotland has done much more than Kuehne, who has made just two cuts. She has also accomplished more than Pak, who has yet to finish in the top 10, or any of the 19 other players who beat her at the tour's qualifying school last fall.
After having to play her way into her first five tournaments, and earning one of the two non-exempt spots three times, a tie for fourth at the City of Hope Myrtle Beach Classic helped Moodie get high enough on the money list not to go through Monday qualifying for the next three months.
"Once you're in the tournament, it's not so tough," Moodie said yesterday in Nashville, Tenn., where she is practicing for the Sara Lee Classic, which begins tomorrow. "When every shot is so crucial, it makes it so much harder."
Moodie has taken a different route to get to the tour than most. She quit school at 16 and went to work in a sporting goods store in her native Glasgow during the winters to make enough money to play golf in the summer.
She put off going to college for four years, in part because her mother suffered a brain aneurysm and Moodie wanted to stay close to home. Moodie, who won the Scottish junior championship in 1989 and the ladies title three years later, eventually received a scholarship.
"As a result of the aneurysm, she lost a lot of her part-time memory and most of her eyesight," Moodie said. "It took about two years for her to realize that when I was calling from the U.S., I wasn't calling from down the street."
After finishing her college career last May, Moodie was considered one of the favorites to make it through qualifying school in Daytona Beach, Fla., last October. But a first-round 78 left her scrambling and a case of food poisoning after a second-round 70 left her drained the last two days.
She wound up in a nine-way playoff for the last three spots -- and lost.
"By the time we got to the playoff, I had no energy left," Moodie recalled. "I had visited every Port-a-loo on the course."
Her travails, and travels, this year have been interesting. She has gotten lost in big cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta, has wound up playing courses sight-unseen and has made the cut in six of the eight events in which she qualified.
"I'd still be as determined as I am now [had she qualified last fall]," said Moodie, who leads all rookies with $55,353 and is ranked 43rd. "But I know coming to this tournament and the last tournament was a relief."
Her last Monday qualifying was two weeks ago at the Chick-Fil-A Championship in Stockbridge, Ga. After finishing tied for fourth in Myrtle Beach, Moodie's Sunday night flight to Atlanta was delayed an hour. She wound up driving 35 minutes in the wrong direction out of the airport and didn't get to her hotel until 1 a.m.
"Luckily my tee off was at 1: 30 in the afternoon and not at 8 in the morning," said Moodie, who wound up shooting 70 and still missed out on one of the two spots.
The other time she missed qualifying came at the Standard Register Ping Championship in Phoenix. After finishing tied for 26th at the previous tournament in Tucson, Moodie figured that she'd make the two-hour drive and get a good night's sleep.
"I slept in the waterbed, and I've never done that before," said Moodie. "I got seasick."
Her improved status has also enabled Moodie to hire her first full-time caddie, Mike Paterson. A fellow Scot, Paterson had been working for second-year player Natascha Fink of Austria. "It's great being from the same country," Moodie said. "You have more things to talk about."
Reigning U.S. Open champion Allison Nicholas admires what Moodie has accomplished.
"It's an amazing feat," Nicholas said. "Since I never was in that situation, I don't know what it's like, but she's proven she belongs out there."
About the hardest part of Moodie's rookie year has been keeping up the lines of communication back home. Though her mother has recovered, she can only see through what Moodie calls "the size of a pinhole." Her father has retired to take care of his wife.
Christine Moodie was the one who started her daughter playing golf when she was 11, having been a three-time club champion herself. Her parents last came to one of Moodie's tournaments last year, when she closed out her amateur career with an event in Scotland.
"Once I can afford it, I'll bring them over here for a holiday," Moodie said.
Pub Date: 5/07/98