Here comes sugar and spice and everything nice. Boop-de-boop, boop-de-boop. Nancy Hager, 5-foot-2 of Dallas. Yes, here she comes strutting down the fairway. Nancy always struts down there. She has her chin out, eyes fixed, destination known, and she always struts. Birdie, birdie, birdie, that's what Nancy is thinking. And she "will think you to death," according to one of her fellow golfers who played her in a recent Texas state tournament and watched Nancy throw a 34 out on the front side and go on to win 8 and 7.
Nancy has her Weejuns and her Peter Pan collar blouses, and she'll also play a little Johnny Rivers for you on the record player. The bopping teenies aren't dead after all. They are alive and well and bopping on the golf course.
Nancy is just one of those 12-to-17-year-old honeys who bounded over the well-manicured grounds of the Flint Golf Club in Flint, Mich. last week for the national Girls' Junior Championship. She didn't win the tournament, but it only hurt for a little while, that being the way with 15-year-olds, and she has two more tries anyway. This is her fifth year in the juniors, and Nancy remains the casebook study of how a girl-type girl becomes a golfing-type girl. When she was 2 years old she was hitting at the ball, when she was 6 she was playing three holes and when she was 10 she was entering tournaments. Of course, it helps to have interested parents. Nancy's father is the head pro at Preston Trail, home of the Byron Nelson Classic, and her mother is a teaching pro at Northwood in Dallas, where Julius Boros won the Open in 1952.
Little Miss Hager was the leader during the two days of qualifying medal play at Flint. She shot 74-73, one under par, to lead all 117 of the best juniors in the country. It was the lowest qualifying score in the history of the 20-year-old tournament and established Nancy as one of the favorites along with Elizabeth (Doll) Story of New York, last year's champion, long-hitting Mary Jane Fassinger of Pennsylvania and the contingent of experienced players from California, including Liana Zambresky, runner-up in 1967.
August 18, 1968
The surprises started early, however. Doll Story's elimination in the first round was the most shocking. While her father nervously ripped apart sticks and twigs on his trips to the rough and her brothers followed the action with their walkie-talkies, Doll's usually superb short game deserted her and she lost 5 and 4 to Judy McClure, a two-time Southern California junior champ.
"As soon as she took her 20-pound purse out of the golf bag, I knew I'd get going," said Judy's caddie, Dan McAuliffe, taking the credit. "Everybody said I would never beat Doll, but she's only human. Judy and I can go all the way now."
Though Liana Zambresky was also defeated in the first round, Judy and her roommate, Marianne Cox, a striking blonde from Santa Ana who upset Jo-Anne Gunderson Carner and Roberta Albers in last year's Women's Amateur, carried the California colors into the quarter-finals along with Susan Rapp of Chula Vista. Janey Fassinger, a tall beauty who breaks Arabian horses on her father's farm, was also drawing large galleries and making grown men weep with her distance off the tee.
While all of this was going on, hardly anyone noticed slender Peggy Harmon (SI, Aug. 5) of Tennessee, who was playing the best golf of the tournament, albeit silently. The daughter of a retired Air Force colonel, Peggy is a quiet, sensitive, introspective girl who carries heady reading material around with her and is constantly searching for new words to improve her vocabulary. She plays golf with intense concentration, never speaking, and her obliviousness to the social niceties of the game unnerved more than one of her opponents. Was Ben Hogan misunderstood? Weil, Peggy Harmon is misunderstood, too.
"Usually, all the girls say 'Nice shot' and stuff like that, but she doesn't smile or say a word or anything," said Nancy Hager, who lost to Peggy on the 21st hole in last year's tournament. "I used to think she was the unfriendliest girl I'd ever met, but you just have to get to know her. She's really very nice."
Many girls thought of Peggy as a "stoneface," and some went further than that, but she was undaunted. She defeated Nancy 3 and 2, then eliminated Judy McClure by halving the 17th hole despite a 50-foot putt by Judy. "I hope they don't think I'm being rude, because I'm not trying to be," Peggy said at the hamburger stand where she ate every day. "I just hate to say 'Nice shot, nice shot, nice shot' all the time. Sometimes people don't catch it right and it sounds insincere, and sometimes I don't even see the shot. I'm trying to concentrate on my own game and pretend they aren't even there. I really like most of the girls out here, but I just don't go for that stuff about telling them they're great. That's a good way to lose your concentration."
After each match, Peggy would go back to her motel in the "gas eating" Pontiac that she had driven 620 miles all alone from Shelbyville, Tenn. and type the final drafts of the essays she is preparing for entrance at Vanderbilt University in the fall. In last year's tournament she read A Tale of Two Cities while waiting at the 1st tee. This year she waited with Reischauer's Beyond Vietnam, the subject of one of her essays. "I've got to start learning about politics," Peggy said. "I don't even know who Spiro Agnew is."
Peggy was joined in the semis by Susie Rapp, Janey Fassinger and Kaye Beard, a Kentucky women's champion who is getting bored with everyone asking her if she is related to another Kentuckian, Frank Beard. "I never even met him, but, if we're 11th cousins or something, I'm going to call him for a putting lesson," said Kaye.
When only the four of them were left, they sat around the edge of the green with chins on hands, elbows on knees, all together, the way girls will do, and talked about golf and other things. One thing was beaches, and then school and, after that, their hair and books and horses and, of course, boys, too. And if USGA officials had just been sneaking a look, they would have discovered right then that their next champion was made of more than lollipops and roses.
"Transcalent. I think that means 'transferring heat,' " said Peggy.
"Are you for sure going to be a chemist?" asked Kaye.
"Well, I like chemistry," said Peggy. "You know, being a real girl chemist might be kind of cool. I could stand the qualitative part, I know, but maybe not the quantitative. I don't handle the moles so well, they're so tedious. But the unknowns, they're kind of fun. Yes, maybe I will be a chemist."
"Oh God, smart brain, smart brain," said Kaye. "Well, I'm going to Kentucky and major in phys ed and I'm taking gymnastics. And there are no moles in that, whatever they are."
Two days later, Kaye and Peggy met in the final match where the discrepancies in their educational philosophies were not to extend to their golf. Both girls played superbly, Kentucky Kaye going 2 up after a birdie on the 7th hole. But she bogeyed the next two, and Peggy, implacable as ever after rolling in a 35-foot putt early in the match, tied her at the turn.
It was a mistake to let Peggy back in the door. In her four previous matches she had played the back nine in one under, one under, three under and one under par. Though dropping back again at the 10th, she came on strong, stringing four pars while Kaye bogeyed twice and then hit out of bounds at the 14th.
After she stroked a birdie putt on 15 and closed out the match, 3 and 2, on the following hole, Peggy's card read 15 pars and one birdie. Her face, finally, read happy. Joy bursting past the frowns, she soared her visor through the air and let out a whoop. For a real girl chemist who hadn't smiled all week, it was kind of cool.