Sally Dodge once wanted to travel the world to play golf professionally. In 1976, after missing the cut by 6 strokes at the LPGA Qualifying School, she became the first female golf professional at Pebble Beach Golf Links. For 40 years, she has had the world travel to her. Here is her story.
I meet Sally at Olive Garden in Palo Alto in the late afternoon on a Tuesday in February. I’ve met Sally once before at the pro shop at Pebble Beach. It is the perfect contrast—the fanciness of Pebble versus the chain restaurant. As our chat goes, it becomes apparent to me how Sally’s life has been—and still is—illuminated by some of the most famous celebrities in golf and on the planet. However, Sally has had the same P.O. Box since she first started 40 years ago, and lives quietly in Pacific Grove at her home of 11 years.
Sally’s parents met playing golf in Massachusetts, and ingrained the love for the game in her as a youngster. They moved to the Bay Area, and Sally would drive to Monterey every Saturday to take lessons from Art Bell, who was the Head Golf Professional at Pebble Beach at the time. Starting in the early 70’s, Sally tried to qualify for the Tour five times. After her fifth attempt, she felt it was time to move on, so she told Art Bell that she wanted a job in the golf business. It so happened that his Assistant Pro just left to go try the PGA Tour, and so there was a position open. Sally had to interview with upper management and got the job.
Sally tells me Pebble Beach is a very interesting place to hang out and that is part of the reason she has stayed there for so long. One of her favorite moments was meeting Celine Dion, who she really enjoyed because of her friendly demeanor. Another fun time was when Susan Reed, former Editor of Golf for Women Magazine, came to write an article about the Resort. Sally hosted her and, while playing Pebble Beach, Sally had a hole-in-one on the fifth hole!
At the AT&T this year, she was invited by Jim Nantz to visit the broadcasting booth. Sally thought it was really fun to see how the broadcast comes together and how knowledgeable the announcers are.
Sally’s role has changed a little bit over the years. She never wanted to get into management because she enjoyed teaching so much. When the new Pebble Beach Academy opened, Sally was one of three to hit the ceremonial first shot.
One of Sally’s golf heroes is Patty Sheehan. I asked Sally who her dream foursome would be and she said Patty, Celine Dion, Fuzzy Zoeller, and Ellen Degeneres. I think that sounds like a fun group!
Since Sally has been around the golf business for a long time; I asked what kind of advice she would give to someone who is just starting out. Sally offered three things: be patient because it takes time to build a clientele, go to as many seminars as you can, and read as much as you can. Sounds like great advice to me! Sally is a Master LPGA Professional and has been awarded the Western Section Professional of the Year in 1994.
Sally credits Shirley Spork as the most influential person in her golf career. Shirley’s dedication to golf and how well she treats people have been key ingredients to Sally’s success. And don’t forget, as Shirley says, don’t ever attempt to demo a shot you never hit before!
Sally is full of gratitude to work at such a fantastic golf course and resort for 40 years. During Sally’s time at Pebble Beach, the resort has gone through six different ownerships. Each time, the resort has gotten better, she says. She mentions how her co-workers and the management team led by Mr. R.J. Harper, Executive Vice President of Golf & Retail for the Pebble Beach Company, makes her feel very fortunate. Right now, there are hotel renovations underway and a plan for a new Conference Center, which will make the Resort even more amazing.
She has lots of fond memories of people and friends who have passed through Pebble Beach over the years. Next time when you come to visit, there is a special photo hanging on the wall just right of the front desk in the Pro Shop. It is a photo of Art Bell, Sally Dodge, and Byron Nelson. Sally has led an extraordinary life in golf, and she is one of the most humble and gracious women you could ever hope to meet.