ON THE ROAD WITH THE GIRLS

For 10 months of the year, professional women golf players tour the U.S. They travel self-contained as turtles in their shells, but occasionally there are times when the only compensations for a life spent on tour are pure victory or unwavering camaraderie. Here is the journal of an outsider who, for a few weeks, shared the professionals' life
June 18, 1961

I arrived inDallas, and the next day an interview with Golfer Gloria Armstrong waspublished in The Dallas Times Herald. Gloria said the girls played poker andgambled with club members, and she described a birthday party in which she, herfriends and her grandmother were all down on their knees shooting craps. Someof the girls on the tour, who are earnestly concerned that the world realizewomen professionals are really delicate blossoms, are in shock. Gloria's closefriends are shaking their heads. Gloria just keeps saying helplessly, "Thethings that are there I said, but I didn't say them that way." The upshotbeing that now the girls are writer-shy. When they see me they stop talkingabout whatever they have been talking about, and tell me some more about what agrand group of girls it is and how they love each other like sisters.

As a matter offact, they do get along together very well, as much as anything else because ofthe way they keep apart. The existing cliques don't accept anyone easily. It isnot like an office, where it is no worse than tiresome to have someone intrudeat lunch. On tour an intruder would be with you all the time—breakfast, lunch,dinner, golf course and motel room. If the lines weren't clearly drawn as tohow much who can bear to see of whom, the girls would go mad. It allilluminates a remark of Betsy Rawls, "We get along real well. Some of thegirls I won't have dinner with for a whole year," which at the time soundedlike a non sequitur. The units into which the group breaks down seem to be thebridge players, the poker players, the new girls, the loners and PattyBerg.

The few furthergeneralizations that seem to be defensible are: 1) Most of the girls were goodathletes as children (it's degrading, I think, to call them"tomboys"—they were valid athletes, as much as Joe DiMaggio and KyleRote were) who took up golf when their parents wrested away their footballs andbaseball bats as unbecoming to young ladies. 2) Whether they care for touringor not, they now get restless after several weeks in one place. 3) Allowing forno exceptions, they love the game of golf profoundly, more than anything else.And 4) their enthusiasm for a life on tour varies according to their ages.Seventeen-year-old Sandra Haynie, 20-year-old Carol Mann love it. "You getto see so many places! And to meet so many people!" But 28-year-old Jo AnnPrentice says, "When I started out it was fun. Now it's work." And41-year-old Betty Jameson, "If I had it to do over again, I think I wouldmarry and have a family."

Perhaps itdoesn't mean much. Ask 17-year-olds and 40-year-olds how they like life in theribbon factory and I suppose you'll get the same kind of answers.

April 16 TheDallas Civitan is over. Suggs won it (for the third consecutive year), andSandra Haynie came in third. Sandra is so small (105 pounds) it seems unlikelythat she could have the strength to be properly in competition with the Rawlsesand the Wrights, but she is strong and, in time, may be one of the really goodgolfers.

The weather waswindy and cold, and the Glen Lakes course apparently lies on real hardpan;hitting down into it brought out a grand crop of old injuries. Sore hands,wrenched backs, bad knees all reappeared as if by magic. Tremendous gallery,though, so the girls were pleased. I followed Betsy Rawls, Betty Jameson andBarbara Romack on the final round. Romack was finishing out the tournamentdespite the news that her father had died on the previous day. Pity she waspaired with Betty Jameson, who is a perfectionist—high-strung and apt to benervy and imperious on the course. Betsy was beginning to sharpen up after anindifferent start when, on the 10th hole, a fine drive bounced off someoneinexplicably running across the fairway. The resulting lie was not desperate,but it would have been excellent, and the heart visibly went out of Betsy.Little Judy Kimball appeared from nowhere to say fiercely, "That just costher the tournament," and disappeared again. Very hard on 22-year-old Judy,who worships Betsy and suffers and dies over every stroke of her game. Theyeven look alike, as if Judy were so susceptible of impression as to have beenstamped physically—straight blonde hair that turns up slightly, builds whichare stocky but slender (or slender but stocky).

Betsy's 32, aPhi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas (major, physics), and she andMickey Wright head up the bridge players. At the moment Betsy is president ofthe Ladies Professional Golf Association, an honor which is acknowledged tocost the holder money. The time it takes, the responsibilities on the golfer'smind seem to add an almost calculable number of strokes to the president'sgame. Betsy's is erratic in the first place—she will be on, and then way off.It seems likely to me that the presidency may be responsible for some of herdisappointing tournaments this year.

April 17 Drovehalfway to Beaumont with Shirley Englehorn, counting tractors. Her father is aJohn Deere distributor in Caldwell, Idaho, so the fact that we saw more Fordtractors than John Deere tractors was a matter of concern. They're tearing upthe highway out of Dallas, and we had to pick our way through some messyconstruction. There are bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush all along the road,though, and the country turns green and wooded toward Beaumont. Pretty.

Shirley's 21,has played golf since she was 6 and has always known she wanted to be a pro.She's sponsored by the Athletic Roundtable of Spokane, and she was signed byGolfcraft, Inc. in 1959. That, of course, is the sort of arrangement which isthe financial backbone of the pro system—the salary from the sponsor and thedeal with a company, which varies according to the company and the stature ofthe pro. (Berg and Suggs have salaries, expense accounts, income fromautographed clubs, clothing bearing their names, etc.) The pro gives clinics inher company's name, attends luncheons and generally is supposed to playbrilliant golf to the greater glory of the Spalding Dot, or whatever.

Those girls whodon't show promise enough to arouse the interest of a company probably aregoing to finish consistently out of the money. Betsy says of them that shedoesn't see what they think is going to happen, or why they stay on. I don'tsee how. Living on tour isn't cheap. Marilynn Smith, a former LPGA president,estimates that a girl shouldn't take to the road for a season without $5,000and preferably her own car. If she finishes regularly in the money she canmanage comfortably. Last year first-place Louise Suggs made $16,892; MarleneHagge, 10th place, $7,212; and Kathy Whitworth, down in 17th place, $4,901. Fewof the girls travel together any more. They used to, but though they may sharemotel rooms to cut down expenses, most find it easier on the nerves to come andgo as they like. Too, four seasons' worth of clothes and all your golfequipment take up a good deal of room.

Halfway toBeaumont we overtook a car, which Shirley finally recognized as MurleMacKenzie's, keeping a none too straight course down the highway. Murle wassleepy, so I was given to her to keep her awake. A small-boned blonde, Murle isfastidious in that enviable way that makes neatness not something one achieves,but is. She's 22 and going to be married in the fall. She said of the oldergolfers, "I wonder what they think about homes, and children. They seem solonely. Nothing to look forward to, to come home to." Precisely what onedoes wonder and can't ask.

We stopped forice cream, at a place where no one had heard of any such flavor ascoffee—"Coffee ice cream?"—and arrived at the motel about 5.

Beaumont, April18 Went to a Rotary luncheon. The Rotarians are sponsoring the tournament herein Beaumont, and it's customary for the girls to go to luncheons and speakbriefly. Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls aren't going to get to Beaumont in timefor their appearances, which is unfortunate. It means a great deal to thesponsors to have the bigger names among the girls. But Patty Berg was here forthis one, with Murle, Carol Mann and Judy Kimball. Very nice to see the girlsin dresses, with their feet showing white where their golf shoes stopped andtheir pumps didn't begin. The young ones were stouthearted, if bashful, abouttheir speeches—giggled a little, were fervent about the extraordinary pleasureof finding themselves in Beaumont. Patty spoke at greater length, and obviouslyout of a great many years of experience. She told golf jokes, and deliveredthem beautifully, spoke soberly of the Babe (Babe Zaharias was born and isburied in Beaumont—the tournament is the Babe Zaharias Open), was funny abouther age and the girls' ages and Carol Mann's height. Carol Mann happens to be 6feet 2. "Carol Mann still holds a record—she was the longest baby born inBuffalo, New York!" Patty trumpets, and everyone roars with laughter. Notjust because it's funny, but because of Carol, who out of some well ofessential good nature makes it fine that people laugh. At clinics, atluncheons, at dinners, Carol stands there ducking her shock head and twistingher hands, knowing it's coming and turning red and shrieking, "Oh,Patty!" just before Patty gets to it: "Carol Mann still holds arecord...." Patty also upon all of these occasions reminds us that it isn'tif you won or lost but how you played the game.

On the coursePatty is Winston Churchill; shaped like him, doughty, peering out from under avisored cap set at Sir Winston's angle, requiring his exact lift of the chin tosee out from under it at all. Her game is steady and solid. Amidst the chirpingand excitement about what Wright may be doing and what Suggs probably is doing,Patty will always be found to have surfaced stolidly into the money. It is saidthat she relies heavily on her caddies—that her eyes aren't too strong anymore, and she won't wear glasses.

Off the courseshe is an eternity of blue suits. Carol says Patty can't buy a blue suit in thecity of Chicago, there not being one she doesn't own. The skirts of all of themcome to a chaste four inches or so above the anklebone, and the material hasbeen tested for irresponsible behavior in a wind. "What do you want anymore of that stuff for?" her father is supposed to inquire in gloomymystification when bills arrive for dresses or underwear. "You can't needany more of those things."

"My dad's aterrific reader," Patty says of him. "He's president of a graincompany, retired. He's the busiest retired man I know. Daddy raises roses, inFort Myers, Florida. Mother raises orchids." "Mother" is PattyBerg's stepmother. "My own mother dropped dead on Christmas Day," shesays, with a certain clarity. It was a heart attack. But then, "One day Iwas out playing golf [Patty says goff] and I introduced Dad to this lady, andthey've been married 19 years. She has red hair and freckles, and looks justlike all of us." Of tour life Patty says, with earnestness and love,"The girls are wonderful—they're very, very high class. The worst thing, ofcourse, is that you're not with your family as much. I don't get to be with myfather and mother and sisters; and my little nieces and nephews. But I havetheir pictures and everything, and they write on my birthday. My nephew wantedto go in the Air Force, so I got some books about it...." Patty herself wasin the service, during the war—the Marines, from 1943 to '45. Now in her 43rdyear, and her 20th year of professional play, Patty goes carefully, conservesher strength. She gets to bed by 10 o'clock and travels now by air. "At myage I can't very well get into an automobile and drive 900 miles to Augusta. Itry to stay as relaxed as I can, and not to worry. This is the life I chose. Ihave to think it's wonderful."

April 20 Talkedwith the wicked, wicked Gloria Armstrong—31, blue-eyed, most mild and amiable.She said of her customary amusements, "I read a lot, and watch television,and knit. It's only changing towns that keeps it from being dull. When I'm homedoing the same thing it gets boring. On tour the things we do that are most funare unplanned. We had a lot of fun in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We had a picnicand went up into the mountains, and two bears came and stole the bread rightfrom the table. We were all together, having a picnic. The most fun is alwaysjust getting together and having a party we've made up ourselves."

Of thedifference between her contingent (poker-playing) and the others, Gloria says,"The big difference is that we aren't in training. I love golf, but I'm notgoing to sacrifice everything for the game. If some people want to, I thinkthat's wonderful. But if I want to date, to stay out till 3 in the morning, I'mgoing to, and if I want to have a drink, I'm going to. I'm not going to stoptalking to people because of golf. Some people get themselves into a trance onthe course, but I may be thinking about my wash. The first couple of years Ithought this was a good life—you got a chance to travel across the country. Ofcourse you wouldn't do it if you didn't like it, but it's a lot harder thansome people think, waking up in the morning and you can't remember what townyou're in.

"A lotdepends on how you're playing. If your game goes sour on you it's miserable,and all you want to do is go home. When I was playing badly it got to mynerves—I was grouchy. I did go home, and said, 'I'm getting out of golf.' Butwhat can I do? I had a year and a half of college, and you can't do anythingwith that. Sometimes a job you might like comes up when you're traveling, butyou look hard at what it involves, and the first thing you know you're back onthe tour. About 80% of the girls want to get married and have a family, but wearen't in a position to do anything about it, and here we are."

It's hard todetermine why the chance to see the country pleased Gloria so. She says,"I'm not a sightseer. I can't think of anything I hate to do worse. I didlook at the place where Custer had his last stand, because it was where youcould kind of see it as you go by. And you can look at Mt. Rushmore, and I didstop at Old Faithful. We were very lucky—we got there about two minutes beforeit let loose. Otherwise I wouldn't have waited around."

Carol Mann, thenight she arrived in Beaumont, got back into her car and drove till she foundthe oil refineries, because she had heard that oil refineries were what therewas to see in Beaumont. Then she drove 40 miles to look at the Gulf of Mexico,and drove up and down the beach. "I found two sharks. They were washed upon the beach, and I tried to cut them open with my pocket-knife, but they weretoo tough, so I took the car and ran over them, but that didn't work either. Imean, I never saw the inside of a shark."

April 21Beaumont is a beautiful course—narrow, defined by its trees—and the weather isgood. I followed Ruth Jessen, Louise Suggs and Sandra McClinton. Sandra is newto the tour, was obviously rattled and hit some painful shots that had to beworked out from behind trees. Suggs and Jessen both moved in and surroundedher, making comforting, reassuring noises. With few exceptions the girls playtogether without strain or any grimly specific competitiveness toward theirpartners. Golf of course has a curiously private element, the sense ofcompetition between oneself and prevailing conditions in addition to thecompetition between oneself and anyone else. Even so, the accord in which thegirls play and their genuine interest in each other's game are remarkable.Marlene Bauer's husband, Bob Hagge, apt to be the only man in this sea ofprofessional lady golfers, says, "I've seen it happen that one girl willhelp another who's having trouble with her swing, knowing that next week shemay go out and beat her because of it. They'll come in after a round of atournament and go back out to watch somebody else play. They play against eachother, and they're playing to eat, and come in and are good friends. I defy themen to do it, at least without a couple of shots of whisky." (Bob isn't theonly one who finds the women steadier than the men. Fred Corcoran, who foundedthe Ladies PGA, left the men's PGA because they were too temperamental.)

Hagge, 6 feet 5,with almost translucently blond hair, intends to be a golf course architect butnow shepherds Marlene through the tour. Before she tees off, he leaves."Where are you going, Bob?" "I got to warm up," he says, atouch wryly. "Unwrap the balls, give the caddie hell, test thewind...." And when Marlene comes in, grim and self-castigatory, calculatingin dollars and cents what the last hole cost her, Bob reminds her of the goodshots. No light breaks through. He points out that tomorrow is another day.Nothing. He sighs, says with the greatest gentleness, "Grem, keep playingit, if it makes you feel better. Go ahead and twist the knife." And GremlinBauer Hagge subsides, not happy, but as comforted as anything but time is goingto make her. Marlene is small and careful and pretty. She diets, takesvitamins, gets enough sleep and dresses with a flair short girls are rarelycapable of. She is a sort of den mother to some of the girls, so there in theHagges' room they are, hair in curlers, in front of the TV set, playingcards.

Augusta, April25 Carol Mann and I left for the Titleholders on Sunday, before the Beaumonttournament was over, Carol having finished out of the money and Augusta being900 miles away. Murle and Kathy Whitworth left with us, and we picked up someothers when we got to Baton Rouge on Sunday night; they called back tocongratulate Mary Lena Faulk when they heard she'd won in Beaumont. We leftearly for Augusta. It was hot. Louisiana looked like Texas, Mississippi lookedlike Louisiana, Alabama looked like Mississippi and I suppose Georgia lookedlike Alabama, but it was too dark to see. We dragged in exhausted, but at anyrate early, so the girls who had never seen it could get used to the AugustaCountry Club course. And then for the next few days it rained.

When it rainsyou polish your shoes and play cards and look at television.

April 26 Talkedto Louise Suggs, the definitive loner. Louise Suggs is a grownup. I wassuddenly conscious when I met her that life in this sororal society (theevenings of bridge in one another's rooms, bull sessions and dining together)has so much the air of college or summer camp. Louise is a woman of 37 ("Ican't lie about my age, because I was born the night the ball park burneddown") who is not about to live as though she were still in school. Shefinds out where the younger element is staying and goes somewhere else. Shedrinks Martinis before dinner and does not see in it a topic for groupthinking. She does not talk about golf. She is not interested in the tempestsin the tour's teapot, or in going to Fun Night, or in promoting some image ofthe professional woman golfer in the mind of the public, or in having 5% takenoff the top of the purse to divide among the girls who finish out of the money.("I worked for my money, why shouldn't they? Why should I support themnow—if I get sick, are they going to feel an obligation to support me?")Louise is entirely forthright, and alienates people on occasion. "I guessI'm terrible," she says wistfully, "an awful bear." (A bear of whomRuth Jessen says, "Louise is always doing things for you, and never letsyou know she did.")

Fond of her ornot, everyone respects her absolutely—personally and as a golfer. Louise waslast year's leading money winner, is in the Ladies' Golf Hall of Fame, has beenthe National Amateur Champion, the National Open Champion, the British AmateurChampion and the Ladies Professional Golf Association Champion. She's won theNorth and South Championship, the Southern, the Western Amateur and Openchampionships. This year she has won five of the 10 tournaments she has playedin and finished second or third in most of the ones she didn't win. InFebruary, in Palm Beach on a par-3 course, she turned in 156 for 54 holes, toSam Snead's 158 and Dow Finsterwald's 165, a feat about which she feelsparticularly gleeful.

Louise has putin her time as president of the LPGA and assuming association responsibilities.She is at present their member at large, but says, "I've served myapprenticeship. Now is the time for me to be able to slack off." She findsit hard being obliged to relate to people, whether she is feeling like it ornot, because tournaments, clinics and business luncheons demand it. "Doesit affect your own friendships?" I asked her. And Louise said, "I haveno friends." She made nothing out of it. The friends she did have when shewas a girl have married, and she sees them only once a year. There happens notto be on the tour anyone her age to whom she feels close. There is a friend,Jean Hopkins, who joins her briefly when possible but, with this exception,Louise means it, she does not have any friends. "It's not too bad, onceyou've made up your mind that it's necessary," she says of the life."But basically it's no way for a woman to live. Don't get me wrong, Iwouldn't trade it." So there she is, with her Cadillac and her travelingclothesline, her collapsible cooler, her clothes that don't need ironing, andno friends, in a motel room. A motel room at the top though, and if she has nofriends she has a troop of admirers, in the front row of whom is me.

April 27 It wasstill raining this morning. They moved the starting time back, and there wererumors that they would cancel for the day and play 36 holes on Saturday, oreven cancel for good, but finally it was decided to begin in the rain. Thegirls teed off and moved out in mournful pairs. There was no gallery but theofficials, in identical raincoats and pith helmets, and the press. I followedSandra Haynie, who played badly. She proved later to have caught the flu, sogot to spend a couple of days in bed in a motel room—in a motel where roomservice refused to involve itself in anything more elaborate than sandwiches.(Carol Mann did get a dish of ice cream, but they didn't extend themselves sofar as to provide a spoon.)

April 30 The72-hole Titleholders is one of the important women's tournaments, and there wasrelief when on the second day the weather cleared. On the last day it wasperfect. The course was dry enough, and it was a marvelous final round. For awhile, just before the turn, there was a four-way tie, Berg, Suggs, MickeyWright and Kathy Cornelius. The gallery milled around the posted scores and thephone, unable to decide to follow any one of them and miss what the others weredoing. In the end Mickey Wright took it from Louise by one stroke and won herfirst Titleholders. For years people have expected her to defeat this longcourse to which her long (longest in women's golf, in fact) drive seemedparticularly suited. Very big day for Mickey, who received her greenTitle-holders' blazer, the Vare Trophy, the LPGA Babe Zaharias Trophy—abouteverything in sight. There were speeches and awards, and a good deal ofceremony, but Murle MacKenzie wanted to duck out as early as she could, and shetook me back to the motel. She was exhausted, and dissatisfied with her game;she wanted her supper, and to get to bed. She had to leave for Spartanburg inthe morning to get her washing and ironing done there before practice. AfterSpartanburg come Columbus, Nashville, New Rochelle, N.Y., Dillsburg, Pa. andBaltusrol, N.J., Leesburg, Ind., Rockton, III., Minneapolis, Minn, andWaterloo, Iowa. Etc. I am going home.

New York, May IWhat do I think? Well, I see empty dinner trays in motel corridors. I can hearDel Shannon singing Runaway from Texas across Louisiana and Mississippi andAlabama, down 900 miles of highway into Augusta; I see tall Carol Mann workinga gas pump herself, in the middle of the night, 200 miles out of Augusta, andin a fit of laughter letting it run over; I see self-exacting Betty Jamesonsitting up in bed, hugging her knees and grieving over a bad shot, and BobHagge leaning on this side of a door marked Men Only. And golf courses,stretching away, sunny and green, in that astonishing silence that can attend30 people engaged in their life work and 5,000 others excited enough to comeand watch. I don't know what I think. It's a life you can make anything youwant to of, if it doesn't make anything it wants to of you first.

PHOTOHANS KNOPF SandraHaynie and Pat Moore (at right) listen to records, Barbara Romack telephonesand the motel of the week is home. PHOTOHANS KNOPFBob Hagge dines amidst the girls: (from left to right) Ruth Jessen, Jo Ann Prentice, wife Marlene and Gloria Armstrong. PHOTOHANS KNOPFJo Ann Prentice, crouched in the trunk of her automobile, stuffs her shoes away in her only permanent closet on the tour. PHOTOHANS KNOPFAlone in a motel lobby, "loner" Louise Suggs reads a local daily newspaper.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)