It was the week of the national collegiate golf championships, the week that Florida's Bob Murphy birdied six of nine holes in the final round at Stanford to win the men's title and the University of Houston assailed par and the opposition to win the team event for the ninth time in 11 years. That's golf these days—schoolboy style. When million-dollar careers are possible on the pro tour, any boy with a chance to break par is going to keep his head down.
But on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State, site of the 25th Women's Collegiate tournament, golf was being played schoolgirl style. There was a noteworthy mixture of intensity, frivolity, skill, voodoo and sport and, as is often the case, the girls displayed a few tricks the boys would do well to learn. By the time Michigan State's V. Joyce Kazmierski had beaten Georgia's Bobbie Jo Gabrielsen in the 36-hole final match there may not have been any flashy sub-par scores but there had been some fine lessons in the joys and skulduggeries of head-to-head competition.
The possibility of joining the ladies' pro tour was not being ignored by the 105 coeds competing at Ohio State—what with the LPGA now offering $478,000 in prize money—but the finalists are going to be schoolteachers instead. (Since 1949 only one winner of the Women's Collegiate has turned pro.) "Up to three years ago I definitely was going to be a pro once I was good enough," winner Kazmierski said. "I started playing in a lot of national tournaments and got swept up in the atmosphere. But not now. I don't like going into a tournament figuring I need $200 to get to Muskogee or Shreveport. Pros have dollar signs before their eyes. They have to. That takes a lot out of the game. There's something I like about buying my own shoes and polishing them myself. They weren't given to me by a sponsor. They're mine."
"The pros are real nice to you now," said another collegian, "but I figure once you turn pro you're after their bread and butter, and there isn't that much butter."
July 3, 1966
As the tournament began, the favorite was a true pro type, the 19-year-old defending champion Roberta Albers of Miami. Roberta was playing golf at 8, and she had won her first championship at 9. She came to Columbus fresh from a victory in the Trans-Mississippi tournament and, as Joyce Kazmierski frankly put it, "with the most remarkable golf game I have ever seen. She has everything. She doesn't talk to you at all if you're playing with her. She won't say things like 'nice shot' about an opponent's game the way we all do. Maybe she doesn't say anything because her concentration is so intense."
"I think she doesn't say anything," said another Michigan State coed, "because her sense of excellence is so high. Our shots just aren't good, in her opinion. The truth is, compared to hers, they aren't good."
But last Thursday in the quarter-finals Roberta ran into a match-play wonder, 19-year-old Bobbie Jo Gabrielsen. Bobbie Jo will shoot 90 while you shoot 70, but she will still beat you 1 up on 18. A sophomore at the University of Georgia where her father is a professor and former swimming coach, blonde Bobbie Jo had played in only three national tournaments before the Collegiate. But she has her methods. She will concede short putts to an opponent while still 20 feet from the hole herself. "I always concede a putt if I figure I could sink it," she says. She turned in the most erratic rounds of the week, primarily because she believes in playing against her opponent instead of against par. She must have almost demented Roberta Albers. On the first nine holes Bobbie had five bogeys, two birdies and two pars, and looked beaten. Then she came back with two bogeys, six pars, two birdies and an eagle. It was just enough to down Miss Albers on the 20th hole.
On Friday, Bobbie Jo defeated 19-year-old Jan Ferraris of San Francisco 2 up on the 18th hole with another remarkable exhibition of Gabrielsen golf. One up at the end of nine, she went bogey, bogey, double-bogey, bogey. Now happily behind, she finished par, birdie, birdie, par, birdie. "I guess I don't start playing until I know I have got to," she said that night. Jan reacted to her defeat by announcing on the spot that she was turning pro. Meanwhile, Joyce was working her way into the finals in far less spectacular fashion. So the field was down to two would-be schoolteachers.
V. Joyce Kazmierski—she was born on V-J Day—is the daughter of a Detroit toolmaker. She is as tough in match play as, well, as a Spartan, to pick a simile not entirely at random. She began her golfing career at 9 when she won a plastic trophy in a city-wide tournament after qualifying for it with an 81—for nine holes. She is now 20, an MSU senior and canny. The night before the finals she was talking about Bobbie Jo's play-your-opponent theory. "I lost too many big tournaments trying it," she said. "If you start out that way, you're dead. If your opponent is going over par, you'll go over par. Then you get keyed to that kind of golf. In a 36-hole match you should forget your opponent for the first 27. Play against par. For the last nine holes, play your opponent."
Saturday morning Joyce ate an early breakfast in the clubhouse while five college friends carried on an animated, voluble battle with a waitress who had forgotten French toast, or raisin toast, or plain toast, or no toast. Joyce, a nervous chain smoker on the course, serenely ignored the noise of her claque. Throughout the week's matches this troupe had concerned itself with Joyce's mental well-being. One would walk up to her carrying some well-wilted roots of grass and say quite solemnly: "Joyce, we're rooting for you." Or bring up a dandelion and say: "That was a dandy shot."
Bobbie Jo was the center of an equally enthusiastic group. "She's very popular," said a tournament committee-woman. "She likes to socialize. She'd rather not practice."
That might be true, but Bobbie Jo has other ways of winning golf matches. For one thing, she refused to change her shoes all week. She would alternate her two pairs of lucky socks, but not wash them. She would have only a 10¢ glass of tomato juice for breakfast. Behind the 5th green there was a water fountain. She insisted on walking around the right side of it. "If I went around the left," she said, "it would be all over." As the week progressed, her list of superstitions grew, reaching one desperate point at which she found two ball markers in her pocket and could not remember which was the lucky one.
After the first nine holes of their match Joyce and Bobbie Jo were all even, both three over par. At the 10th Joyce went 1 up, but on 13 Bobbie got the hole back. "I knew she would get confident when she got around to her holes—those ones she had played so well before—so I was determined to get confident there, too," Joyce said later. She did, winning the 15th, 16th and 17th before losing the 18th to finish the morning round 2 up.
During lunch one of Joyce's clan looked up at a colored print of a golfer on the clubhouse wall. "Can I be so dumb as to ask who that is?" she said. "From the hair," said Joyce, "I think it's Bobby Jones. Is it?" It was.
Bobbie Jo went 3 down at the 19th hole when Joyce birdied it, but then she started to fight back. She won two holes, birdied her lucky fountain hole with a near hole-in-one, and then won two more to go 1 up on the 25th. "Sometimes I'd rather be behind," Joyce had said the night before. "It gives you a little advantage, it forces you to gamble, to go for the pin." Now she was behind. She evened the match at the 27th and at the 29th hit a pitch close to the pin for a winning par. Nor was she going to let Bobbie Jo come back this time. On the 33rd hole, a par-5, Bobbie Jo barely got her two wood shots airborne, but she scrambled out of the left rough to within three feet of the hole. Joyce chipped to within two feet, and when Bobbie Jo missed her putt and Joyce made hers for a birdie, the Georgian's confidence was gone. Joyce was now 2 up, a lead she held until the 35th green, where the match ended. When Joyce stroked an approach putt inches from the hole Bobbie Jo picked up her opponent's ball and held out her hand in congratulations—just one golfing schoolteacher to another.