By Steve Jessmore email@example.com - Kristy McPherson's father David (left) insisted she stay and play the U.S. Open after he suffered a stroke earlier this year. The two share a round together when they can.
But they haven't changed her character. She's been spending wantonly, all right, but often on others.
McPherson's success at the highest level of women's golf has allowed her to become more selfless and generous.
When McPherson left the Grand Strand on Thursday bound for Columbia to attend festivities surrounding her induction into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, she did so from the new spacious Murrells Inlet home she bought her parents, and pulled out of the driveway past the new Buick Enclave she bought her mother, Janice.
"She's become an even better person," said her father, David. "She's pretty cool, you know. She's been great to us and everybody else. She's helped all her friends out. It's just amazing how generous she really is, just helping people out. And one thing about her, Kristy's friends will always be her friends."
What McPherson does now is a job, but she hardly considers it work. She knows what she's got and how she got it. So she instructed her parents to pick out a house so they could move from the modest Conway home they lived in for 28 years. Only at their behest did she first buy herself a home in Tampa, Fla., a couple of years ago.
"I'm pretty lucky to get to play golf for a living, so if you can repay and help the ones who helped you get there, that's the first thing I wanted to do was take care of them before I take care of me," McPherson said. "Because it's not easy when you have kids breaking you, running around playing junior golf and [needing support to] get started on the Futures Tour, so I wanted to give them something nice they deserved and could enjoy. Plus Momma cooks for me when I come home."
She has also bought other family members cars and her father an 18-foot McKee fishing boat. Her parents' home includes an air-conditioned dog house for family pets Max, a Rottweiler, and Allie, a yellow Lab.
The generosity extends well beyond the family. She has helped numerous friends, donated thousands to the women's golf programs at Augusta State and Charleston Southern, where her brother, Kevin, and former teammate Kory Thompson respectively coach, and is a donor to her alma mater, South Carolina. She also participates in numerous charity events each year.
"She's gone from being a little girl who was a money grubber to being a giver now," David McPherson said.
"I liked money," explained Kristy, who has won $1.67 million on the LPGA Tour. "I'd rub your feet for an hour for a quarter. I wanted to work, and I wanted money."
McPherson, 29, is being honored tonight for when she played for free. She is being inducted along with seven other athletes for her collegiate success at USC. She was a three-time First-Team All-American in her final three years and two-time SEC individual champion. "I feel like I got better every year," McPherson said. "My goal was always SEC Player of the Year and my senior year I finally got that, so I felt I was going out on a high note."
Seven years after her graduation, McPherson is still an ardent Gamecocks fan. She has USC football season tickets, though she's only been able to attend one game in the past two years because of her playing schedule. "Bu my brothers are enjoying them," she said
She watched much of the first half of last Saturday's game against Georgia while being worked on in the tour's physical therapy trailer before the second round of the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, where she tied for fourth, then received updates on the course.
"I had about eight guys following me around and they gave me play-by-play," McPherson said. "After I knew they won on the sixth hole, I told my caddie, 'Now we can concentrate on golf.'"
McPherson bought the Tampa home a couple of years ago in part because she was playing mini-tour events there in the offseason. The lack of a state income tax was also a bonus. But her ties to the area, the Gamecocks and her family will likely bring her back in the near future.
"I want to get back up here so I can be closer to family and friends, and get to see the things I've missed out on in the past," said McPherson, who is considering buying a home in Charleston, Columbia or Myrtle Beach. "I don't know if I'll keep the place in Florida or not, but I definitely want to get back this way."
After graduating from USC, McPherson spent 31/2years on the developmental Duramed Futures Tour. She didn't miss a cut in 60 tournaments but also didn't win until her third full season, when she won twice to finish in the top five on the money list and earn 2007 LPGA Tour status.
"Three-and-a-half years was a lot longer than I wanted to be out there, but I needed every bit of the 31/2 years," McPherson said. "It took me my third year out there to learn how to win. It was frustrating at the time, and every year leaving Q-School without a card makes you want to quit golf, but ... it taught me a lot I needed to know to get to the LPGA."
McPherson improved in each of her first three LPGA seasons. She finished 97th on the money list with $79,724 earned and one top-25 finish as a rookie, and in 2008 she improved to 47th on the money list with $407,000 earned and six top-10 finishes in 26 events.
Last year, she moved up to 16th on the money list with $816,000 earned. She finished second at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and fifth at the McDonald's LPGA Championship - both majors - second at the Wegmans LPGA and third at the LPGA Tour Championship.
The season was capped by McPherson's participation on the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup team, which defeated a team of international stars. "Making it once, you never want to miss another team again," McPherson said. "That's obviously my goal."
McPherson's lighthearted personality was said by captain Beth Daniel and team members to be a bond that helped develop team unity. "I feel I can go out to dinner and have a drink with just about anybody on tour, and I would hope they would say the same," McPherson said. "It's people you see 30 weeks out of the year so you'd better get along or learn to get along. You can't really be a girl about it or you're going to have a long year."
After raising the bar in 2009, McPherson got off to a slow start in 2010, recording just one top 10 through her first 14 events. But in her last two tournaments, McPherson tied for second at the CN Canadian Women's Open, where she closed with a 66, and tied for second in the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, where she shot consecutive 68s in the final two rounds.
The combined $206,000 she's won in the past two events allowed her to climb to 23rd on the money list with nearly $358,000 earned. "I think the last couple weeks have kind of saved the season a little bit and made it at least a decent season," McPherson said.
A three-week break beginning this week in the LPGA schedule comes at an inopportune time. "That's my own fault for figuring it out a little late in the season," McPherson said. "You'd like to figure it out in about February. It's frustrating, but definitely if I could play the next three weeks I would because I'm getting a little run going."
She intends to play in six of the remaining seven events on the 2010 schedule, skipping Malaysia but playing in Korea, Japan and Mexico.
McPherson is still seeking her first LPGA win. Her closest call came at the 2009 Kraft where she took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee but watched friend Brittany Lincicome hit a hybrid to 3 feet to make eagle and win by a shot.
"It's tough to win; it's tough to put four good days of golf together," McPherson said. "A bad day of even par ain't gonna cut it. You'd better be under par all four days, and it's getting tougher and tougher. Obviously we have a very international tour, and the girls are good out there.
"I feel like I've been close, but I don't feel like I've done what I need to do to win yet."
A season of change
McPherson parted ways before the season with caddie Thane Aalyson after 11/2 years and hired longtime LPGA Tour caddie Jon Yarbrough, who worked for Morgan Pressel before moving to the PGA Tour and working with John Mallinger for the past two years.
"I think we just kind of got comfortable," McPherson said of her relationship with Aalyson. "I feel [Yarbrough] pushes me a lot and knows when to go for it and when to take our medicine. I feel we're making better decisions on the golf course."
McPherson has worked a minimal amount with instructors, but she worked briefly on the range at the U.S. Open with Angela Stanford's instructor, Mike Wright. She liked what he had to say enough to visit him a couple of times in Fort Worth, get a putting tip from him two weeks ago and send him a video that he quickly critiqued.
"I've always hit one shot: a right-to-left draw," McPherson said. "I feel like I can go out and hit different golf shots now. I feel I can hit any shot you want me to. I think that's what you need in order to give yourself chances to win out there. If you only have one ball flight then you take away a lot of the golf course. ...
"I feel I'm hitting the ball the best I have my four years out there, and I'm still learning a lot more about the game and learning a lot more about the golf swing."
Though she's working on it, putting has never been McPherson's strength. She switched back to a regulation-length putter from a belly putter following the LPGA Championship in late June, and tied for 10th the next week at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
She believes she hit it well enough in Canada to win by several strokes. "When you have 6- to 8-footers for birdie every hole and you make three or four a round, it drives you nuts," McPherson said.
Dealing with illness
McPherson would have gladly accepted missed putts as a nagging concern when she was 11 and stricken with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The painful condition kept her in the hospital for three months and bedridden for nearly a year, and she still combats the affliction, also known as Still's Disease, with daily medication, stretching and physical therapy.
She also receives occasional cortisone shots. "Just keep shooting me up until we make it through," McPherson said. "People don't think golf is tough, but golf will beat down your body."
Hip and elbow ailments are the injuries du jour. "I think I'm a little more prone to injury, and at the end of the year I get kind of beat down," McPherson said. "It's a long year traveling and it's been tough lately with the body falling apart."
Although McPherson has dealt with her own illness since childhood, her father's illnesses have been perhaps harder to accept. The most recent setback was a stroke in July.
McPherson was on her way to pick up family members at the airport in Pittsburgh the Monday before the U.S. Women's Open when she received news of the stroke. Kristy told him she was going home to Murrells Inlet. "It was very fortunate he didn't lose his speech," McPherson said. "That was the only reason I didn't come home and decided to play, because he could yell at me and tell me, 'No, you're staying right there.'"
Golf remains a strengthening bond in the McPherson family. Kristy and David have played together since she was 12, sometimes playing from dawn until dusk at Pineland Country Club in Nichols.
David caddied for Kristy in numerous tournaments, including the 2003 Futures Tour Championship with a broken femur bone in his left leg caused by a large cancerous tumor. A titanium rod now takes the place of the bone, David's left hip is porcelain, his left kidney was removed because it was cancerous, and the muscle from his left buttocks was removed. The stroke has left the right side of his body largely numb, but he gets around fine with a cane. "I'm just glad to be alive," David said.
The McPhersons have made family vacations out of treks to watch Kristy play, but those trips have been limited to one this year, in March in California. A second organized for Atlantic City was canceled when McPherson's maternal grandmother died, and the third was the U.S. Women's Open.
"I can't stand it," said David, who is planning to attend the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama in three weeks. "We haven't had our golf fix this year."