Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Track: Zimmerman a Winner Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On Track: Zimmerman a Winner Again

Article excerpt

Mary Beth Zimmerman has lain awake at night with tears in her eyes. She has looked at herself in the mirror and cursed the image. She has wanted to snap her golf clubs in half, one by one.

She has come within one more bad day of walking away from the only thing she's ever wanted, the only thing she's known.

"Until you've been there and gone from the top to the bottom, you have no idea what it's like," Zimmerman, 34, said. "It's almost like getting fired from your job and you have no idea why. I can't really explain it. It was very painful."

It was the lowest point, because Zimmerman had been to the highest point. In 1986 and 1987, Zimmerman won three tournaments and more than $300,000. She led the Ladies Professional Golf Association money list both years. Zimmerman was one of the best players in the game.

Less than two years later, she was one of the worst. In 1989 her best finish in a tournament was a tie for 43rd place. She won $2,047 that season, not even enough to cover laundry bills.

Over the next three years she continued to struggle. She averaged an income of around $17,000 per season. Her ranking slipped as low as 170th and never climbed higher than 125th.

It wasn't just that she wasn't contending. She was, for all practical purposes, doing little more than pretending. At one point, she missed 10 cuts in a row.

"I would call home and have a cry over the phone," said Zimmerman, born in Mount Vernon, Ill., and now living in Hillsboro, Ill. "I came close to quitting and doing something else. It's like anything, when things aren't going right, you think about doing something else.

"Five years ago, I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, much less a green."

Toward the end of the 1992 season, Zimmerman sat down for a heart-to-heart talk with her older brother, Greg. No punches were pulled. Her brother's advice was to get tough, or get out.

"He said that if I wasn't going to be in it 100 percent, it wouldn't work," she said. "He made me improve my work ethic. I thought it was good before, but he made me work even harder."

The culmination of the effort came on Sept. 4 when Zimmerman, playing close to home, came from behind to win the State Farm Rail Classic in Springfield, Ill. …

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