Lee Ross: Before we get to your win at Rancho Park, I want to ask you about one of the best years in sports history. In 1986, you won five times including three major championships. In my lifetime, the only other players to win three majors in the same year are Tiger Woods and Inbee Park. What stands out most to you about that year and your accomplishment?
Pat Bradley: Well, Lee, of course, it was winning three out of the four majors. I joined the Tour in '74, and I had yet to be Player of the Year on the LPGA Tour. And 1986 was Pat Bradley's year. No matter what anyone else did that year I was going to do one better. And not only did I win three out of the four majors but it was my Player of the Year year. And it was really very, very exciting - very exhausting. You know, that old saying as golfers: if I did this; if I could have done that; if this would have fallen; if I had done that; I would have had four out of four. I missed the Open at NCR. I shot 76 the first day, which, basically, I shot myself in the foot - but came back with a strong 69 on the last day. I missed the playoff by two or three strokes. So, it could have been, but it wasn't. But that's okay. I had a wonderful year.
Lee Ross: Your LPGA career was a strong and steady one right from the jump. But then seemingly out of nowhere, it wasn't. The record book shows 1988 was - and I'm sorry to say this - a dreadful year. No wins, lots of missed cuts, including at Rancho, which was won by Nancy Lopez. So, the story of why your win at Rancho in 1989 was so important has a strong tie to what happened the year before.
Pat Bradley: I was trying to maintain my greatness that I had in 1986. I was trying to make sure that it wasn't a fluke. Because of that pressure that I put on myself, I developed Graves' disease. Yes, Rancho Park in 1988 was the lowest moment in my whole career. I thought my career was over because of the symptoms that I was feeling. I was thinking I can't go on like this. I thought I was creating all the symptoms I was feeling on myself- putting pressure on myself to maintain the greatness that I showed in '86. I checked out of my hotel at four in the morning so no one would see me leave - a missed cut once again. It was really such a down feeling. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I thought, oh, God all you need is one good finish, maybe one top five and you'll bounce right back into the swing of things. Well, that top five - that top ten never ever came. And so, I left Rancho Park, and I loved the area. Rancho Park is on Patricia Avenue. That's my name! Patricia! So, I mean, I'm thinking this is meant to be. This golf course is meant for me. I went from Los Angeles I stopped in Dallas to change planes to go to St. Petersburg, because that's where the next tournament was. I had met this doctor, Dr. Skip Garvey, I called his office and he said, 'Pat, what the heck is going on with you?' And I said, ‘Doc, I really don't know. I'm not sure.’ So, he said to me, ‘Pat, get in a car come to my office right now.’ So, I did. And he said to me when he saw me, ‘Pat, I'm going to send you across the street to Saint Paul Medical Center. I want you to have your blood drawn. I think you have a thyroid issue.’ And I'm like, I never heard of such a thing. I didn't know what the thyroid did. I didn't know where it was. And I did exactly what he told me. And he called me the next day and he said, 'Pat, I got good news, and I got bad news.’ And I'm like, okay, Doc, well, what's the bad news? ‘Well, you're not going to play any golf for the next four months.’ And I said, 'Well, okay, what's the good news?' He said, 'We know exactly what it is. You have a classic case of Graves' disease, and it's going to take a few months to get you right.' That's exactly what happened.
Lee Ross: During this time, you lost your dad. What impact did your family have on you and your career?
Pat Bradley: Well, my dad is the person who got me started in the game. It was very difficult. My dad saw me become Player of the Year. That was wonderful. But he passed soon after that. He passed in '88. My dad did not see me recover. He knew that I was on the right track. But he did not see me recover fully from my Graves' disease. He didn't see me go into the Hall of Fame, but he did see my Player of the Year. So it was tough, you know, for Dad not knowing, you know, how I was going to fare. And it's funny when I did go back to Rancho Park, I brought my mom with me. And so, Mother saw me win that tournament in '89. And it was probably the most important win in my career because winning there reassured me that I was cured. The Graves' disease was behind me. And now I can focus on my career and Hall of Fame.
Lee Ross: A look at the record shows the start of that year you were playing well. You had a high finish at the Dinah Shore. And then you show up back at Rancho - at Patricia Avenue for the Ai Star/Centinela Hospital Classic. And finally, a win. What are your memories of that week?
Pat Bradley: Oh, I was so thrilled that I was back there knowing it was the lowest moment in my career. And to come back, knowing that I was healthy, knowing that my thyroid was behind me and winning it. I remember as if it was yesterday, I was standing on the 18th tee and I heard the roars from the 18th green. Hollis [Stacy] had made a birdie on 18 and I had to par out in order to win. And I remember the roar that I heard on the 18th Green - Hollis made Birdie. And here I was on the 18th tee box needing to make par to capture the tournament. And sure enough, I did. And it was a great moment. And, of course, to have my mom witness my win was great and I was back on track. I won many times on the LPGA Tour, but winning at Rancho Park, I think, was the most important win in my career. It allowed me to be able to put behind me the disappointment that I went through with the Graves' disease. And if I didn't have Rancho Park on my resume, I'd still be trying to get into the Hall of Fame. It helped me get into the Hall of Fame.
Lee Ross: You grabbed the lead early that final round with four front nine birdies and then afterward said there were some anxious moments, and you didn't want to make a mistake getting to the finish. What's your advice to all of us who are playing late in around maybe with a lead and not wanting to blow it? How do we best mentally stay focused and not fall apart?
Pat Bradley: I have to thank Dr. Bob Rotella. And I remember him saying to me 'Pat, you've got to stay in the moment, and you have to stay in your routine.' So, I was just thinking fairways and greens. Concentrate. My first job is to hit the fairway. My next job was to hit the green and just stay in the moment. Don't get ahead of myself. Don't count my chickens before they hatch. I credit Dr. Rotella, the sports psychologist, for helping me weather those moments.
Lee Ross: Dr. Rotella wrote a book called Golf is a Game of Confidence. And in that book, he said you were the most mentally tough athlete he knew. What do you think that means?
Pat Bradley: I think it's a credit to my perseverance. I always grinded it until the very end. I persevered to the very end. And I take that as a compliment into my character. I failed more times than I won, Lee. But in that process, I did get to the top of the mountain, which was Hall of Fame status. There is failure in our life, but we just got to persevere and keep going forward.
Lee Ross: Nancy Lopez had a chance to tie you with a birdie on the last green and it didn't fall. She was the defending champ and won three LPGA titles at Rancho Park. What made Nancy Lopez special?
Pat Bradley: Nancy was the Arnold Palmer of the LPGA Tour. She played well to the crowd. You know, I kind of had blinders on. I stayed in my little area. Nancy was a great putter. I don't remember Nancy having that opportunity. I would have thought she would have made that putt. But I think, you know, I believe in fate. I believe in destiny. And after what I went through the year before, it was mine to have. And I'm sure Nancy probably lipped out. But it was my week.
Lee Ross: Now, all five of the LPGA events held at Rancho were won by Hall of Famers. You, Lopez with her three, and JoAnne Carner. Tell me about Big Mama.
Pat Bradley: She's one in a million. JoAnne was a great role model for all of us as young players. Her determination. Her love for the game. I mean, you know, she was kind of the Lee Trevino of the LPGA Tour. She really enjoyed the gallery - played up to the gallery. And had every shot in the bag. She was the original big hitter on the LPGA Tour back in the day before Laura Davies came along. And JoAnne is still playing competitive golf (2023) with the Legends of the LPGA. I just saw Big Mama three weeks ago out here in Arizona. And she's still playing up a storm, loves the game, and enjoys it tremendously.
Lee Ross: Finally, there's certainly a proud history of big-time golf at Rancho Park, but every day it serves a public that craves to play the game. What's the importance of having municipally owned and operated golf facilities available for everyone, yes, but especially women, and introducing and keeping young girls involved in the game?
Pat Bradley: Well, that's it, Lee. We need to have this game available. There are no boundaries in the game of golf. Rancho Park is open to everybody. And, you know, it's a great game. It's a game of a lifetime. People who play the game stay together - enjoy it as a family. And Rancho has always been that - available to everybody. It's a game of honesty – etiquette. It's a ladies' and gentlemen's game. So, it's important to have it available to everybody and Rancho Park sure does that.