This week and next in the Pacific Northwest the girls and the women of U.S. amateur golf are getting together for their two big tournaments of the year. These are the 61st Women's Amateur, starting on August 21 in Tacoma, Wash., and the 13th annual Girls' Junior Championship, which will be winding up this week in Seattle.
While the Women's Amateur is the major championship, of course, its little sister (for girls 17 and younger) surrenders nothing in the way of fun, color or competitive vigor. The youngsters play such fierce golf, in fact, that last year's winner, Carol Sorenson, battled to the 18th hole in three of her four preliminary matches, to the 20th in the other, and didn't win the 18-hole final match until the 17th green.
The girls' championship has been a tremendously effective finishing school. No less than six of the last seven Women's Amateur champions, plus three-time Open winner Mickey Wright, have sprung directly from the ranks of the junior event, which has now become so popular that there is a starting field of 70 this year.
Many of these will be staying on for next week's Women's Amateur, and several of them—including Ann Baker of Maryville, Tenn., Mary Lou Daniel of Louisville, both 16, Roberta Albers of Tampa, and Peggy Conley of Spokane, both 14—are almost certain to be making golf news in the years to come. But the most promising of the lot, win or lose this week, is the charming, freckle-faced, curly-haired brunette on the cover, 16-year-old Judy Torluemke of St. Louis.
August 20, 1961
In Judy, golf has a real child prodigy. She has been winning tournaments since she was 7 years old. Her first was a hole-in-one contest sponsored by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and it drew 602 entries. Though she was not quite four feet tall, weighed only 42 pounds and needed her driver on the 102-yard hole (most of the contestants were using short irons), she pounded all three of her shots within 15 feet 2 inches of the cup and won the women's division with an average margin of 14 feet 5 inches.
Wasn't she surprised to do so well, Judy was asked recently. "Not really," she said. "Daddy told me I could win, and I believed everything he said."
Paul Torluemke (pronounced Tor-lum-kee), for his part, has always had confidence in his daughter, and his devotion to her game has certainly triggered much of its success. He is a pleasant, talkative, 42-year-old redhead of German ancestry who has been an Air Force sergeant, a lithographer, a printing salesman and now runs a calendar-manufacturing business in St. Louis. Nothing but a weekend hacker even in his golfing prime, he liked the game well enough to start Judy out when she was 6½ years old. She took to it immediately, and Father, fortunately, proved to be a far better instructor than he was a player. In the early days he sat near the practice tee teeing up balls for Judy by the hour as he taught her the rudiments of the swing. When winter came and Judy moved to an indoor range, she proved inexhaustible. Under her father's careful scrutiny she could bang out as many as 20 buckets of balls a session, or about 900 shots.
From this enthusiastic start Judy's golf became very good very fast. At 8 she went to Orlando, Fla. with her father and won the National Pee Wee Championship, for children 10 to 12. At 9 she won the Pee Wee again and played in George S. May's frantic All-American tournament in Chicago. By the time she was 10 Judy weighed 60 pounds, still not very large even by 10-year-old standards, but she could drive a golf ball 170 yards, shoot consistently in the 80s, and had won her third straight Pee Wee Championship. Her Pee Wee successors are now playing for the Judy Torluemke Trophy.
Even that long ago her pro at the Triple "A" Club in St. Louis, Bob Green, was ecstatic about Judy's promise. "She was the finest golfer I had ever seen," the burly 6-foot 4-inch pro said. "She still is. She hits the ball better than any golfer I have ever known." With her third Pee Wee triumph, Judy announced that she would like to be a great champion, maybe by the time she reached the advanced age of 16.
She is running slightly behind her ambitious schedule, but she has been so consistent a winner there seems little doubt that someday she will be one of this country's finest golfers. When she was 11 the Pee Wee sponsors added a category for golfers 13 to 15, and Judy won that, too. Two years ago, when she was 14, Judy became the youngest (and undoubtedly the lightest) golfer ever to win the Missouri State Women's Amateur championship, a title she took again this year. When she was 14 she also played in her first U.S. Women's Open, and last year at 15 she was the low amateur in that event.
Judy's lack of size has always made her golfing feats seem the more impressive. For example, when she showed up to register for the 1959 Women's Open in Pittsburgh she was not quite 5 feet tall and weighed 80 pounds. "Don't you mean you want to register for your mother?" asked the surprised man at the registration desk.
But almost as startling as Judy's size is her background. It contains none of the accouterments usually thought essential for success in women's golf. When Judy was 7 and an only child, the close-knit Torluemke family was tragically disrupted by the lingering illness of her mother, Waneta, who developed a malignant brain tumor and died 4½ years later. In addition, the family income has always just been barely enough to cover day-to-day expenses, and Mr. Torluemke is not a golf pro with ready access to professional know-how and the best in equipment. Judy's club, the Triple "A," is a sort of workingmen's country club. Noted principally for its vigorous tennis program, which has produced Pro Butch Buchholz and Wimbledon finalist Chuck McKinley, its golf course is only nine holes and 2,800 yards long, has no rough and only three sand traps. It is hardly the place at which to train for the Women's Open on the stupendously long, heavily trapped Baltusrol course. Yet train there Judy did this spring, and at Baltusrol fashioned rounds of 82, 78, 78 and 82 for a creditable 320 and 25th place.
One explanation for Judy's seemingly miraculous play is that she has been well taught, by Green and by her father. Her swing and body turn are smooth and powerful. Another is her ability to hit the ball far. She gets this distance from an absurdly unorthodox grip. Her left hand is turned so far to the right on the shaft that her left palm rests directly on top of it. Instead of pointing toward the target in the approved manner, the back of her left hand faces squarely to the front. Ordinarily this grip would create a boomeranging hook, but Judy has developed such strength in her left arm, wrist and hand that she is able to hit the ball hard with her right hand while keeping the left wrist from rolling over at impact. The result is a high-flying, carefully controlled hook that travels an average of 220 yards.
Judy also is an exceptionally determined player. When she is on a golf course, whether in a championship or just practicing, her freckled face is grim, her back is straight and her stride is brisk. She works hard over every shot and every putt. An example of her terrierlike diligence occurred during the second round of this year's Open. She was even par after three holes but hooked her tee shot into some trees on the par-3 fourth hole and took a 6. Disgusted but not discouraged, she birdied the next hole, an uphill par 4 of 359 yards. Trying too hard for a birdie on the 6th hole (400 yards, par 4) she three-putted from 10 feet for a bogey. Then she birdied the 7th hole. When the round was over Judy had scored a triple bogey, one double bogey and five bogeys, but had also added seven pars and four birdies for a 78. In a field of 83 her score was only one of 18 below 80. Paul Torluemke was so impressed with the excitement his daughter had stirred among the galleries that he now thinks daring golf is the best golf. "That's the only way to play, win or lose," he says. "I'm going to tell her to aim for the birdie every time."
A positive man about his daughter's golf, father Torluemke does not, however, hold a whip over Judy's head. He will often suggest that she put in a lengthy drill on a shot that she is relatively weak on, but most observers agree that it is Judy's own eagerness and determination that leads her to her long hours of practice, not the fanaticism of her father. Paul Torluemke does set targets for Judy and, like any child, she is inclined to go along with him. One such target, and in fact the first, was the British Amateur, a tournament which 10 years ago Torluemke believed was the major event in women's golf.
When I was 6," Judy recalls, "I thought that Queen Elizabeth was the most beautiful woman in the world. So Daddy said that if I was good enough we could go over to Great Britain when I was 16, win in the British Amateur and then be taken to meet the Queen. Well, the excitement about meeting the Queen sort of wore off when I was 10, but we still kept thinking about entering the tournament."
Judy was good enough, but right up to this year there appeared to be no money to pay for the trip. At the last minute Green rounded up two sponsors who donated $600 apiece, and the trip was on. It turned out to be a gloomy one. The championship was played at Carnoustie in Scotland, and the weather was cold and rainy. Judy, who had been right around par in her two practice rounds on the demanding Carnoustie course, drew a bye in the first round. Then in her second-round match with Sheila McKinven she was even after 16 holes, having rallied from a 3-hole deficit after 12. An unplayable lie in a gorse bush just off the green cost her the 17th, and when the 18th was halved Judy had lost. Here she proved that she was very human and still a girl. Coming off the 18th green she burst into tears. The Torluemkes left for home the next day.
After the initial shock, Judy was able to take her British Amateur failure just as she has all her successes, with very little fuss. Nine years of local and national publicity have had slight effect on her. "My best girl friends hardly know I'm a golfer," she says. "When I win something they say 'congratulations' and forget it. I think it's just as well that way."
Her father remarried three years ago. His wife, the former Mrs. Betty Martens, has four children of her own, and the Torluemkes have their own 2-year-old boy. Judy, suddenly, is the oldest of six. The family lives in suburban Ellisville, and Judy, who is now 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 110, drives the Torluemkes' 1959 royal-blue gearshift Chevrolet with a deft and confident ease. With her senior year in high school coming up, she has suddenly discovered that being a good golfer has made her very popular with boys. On her tournament trips she can look forward to winning beaus as well as trophies.
Before this summer's journey to the Northwest, Judy was in an optimistic mood as she sat in the breezy, cool shade outside the Triple "A" clubhouse. This was to be her sixth Girls' Junior Championship and she felt she had an excellent chance to win. Last year she lost the semifinals to Winner Sorenson only after blowing a 3-hole lead with five to play.
She is optimistic about the Women's Amateur, too. "It is only my second," she says, "but if I get rolling I think I could win a couple of matches. If I really get it rolling there's no telling what I could do, is there?"