It is a normal dinner hour at the Stacy house. Gil, the oldest son, is married and away at law school. Laurie, 20, having bemoaned the fact that her sister Hollis never cleans their bedroom, has vacated the premises for the evening. Tommy, 18, and John, 14 (who is called the Bomb because most of the time he looks like one just hit him), are off at a couple of golf tournaments. The rest of the Stacy family, however, is at home on Gwinnett Street in Savannah, Ga.:
Jean, 11, jumping high and touching her toes in midair; Mary, 9, demonstrating a graceful pirouette before breaking out her drawing of a scrubwoman playing golf with a bearded hippie; Martha, 8, turning somersaults while squealing; Ann, 7, turning somersaults while rolling into Martha and screeching; Aimee, 6, doing a passable rendition of I Love You Truly on their electric organ; Hollis, 16, bemoaning the fact that her sister Laurie never cleans their bedroom and petting the Siamese, Samantha. Meanwhile, Jack, the father, is sipping a vodka tonic and wondering what is on television, and Matilda, the mother, is shouting at little Aimee not to hit the flat note again on Truly, Dear. Somewhere in all this, Mrs. Stacy is also explaining to the family's forewarned but unarmed guest that her own father, a roving sea captain, once having disembarked rather shakily upon Scotland near St. Andrews and having heard of the fame of the Old Course, went ahead to play 18 (though he didn't know one end of a golf club from the other) and to "shoot about 500—drunk as a coot."
Such confusion and enthusiasm for golf still colors the lives of the Jack Stacy clan. Dad, a commercial architect, is a two-handicapper, while mom plays to a 10, John the Bomb to an eight and Tommy to just about scratch. Tommy, in fact, recently won the Georgia PGA tournament for boys and, with it, a $1,000 scholarship. But the star of the family, indeed the new golfing prodigy of all the land, is their pug-nosed, pierced-eared, lemon lollipop of a sister, sugarhearted Hollis, the Vamp of Savannah and the USGA.
Through the years girls' junior golf has been populated with more precocity than anyone has had time to count or care about. Judy Torluemke, for example, was low amateur in the 1960 Women's Open at a tender 15. Roberta Albers, the prototype of a sporting child-star, was 14 when she reached the semifinals of the Women's Amateur in 1961. Yet the accomplishments of brown-haired, brown-eyed Hollis Stacy during the last year have stirred the interest and curiosity of the game's most jaded observers. Recently the old pro Tony Penna was asked to evaluate her swing. "Don't let anybody touch her," he said. "She could play with a broom."
Last August Hollis, then 15, became the youngest girl ever to win the USGA Girls' Junior Championship. She also was medalist in the Western Junior, won the Georgia women's state tournament and the Savannah city championship. Then, in April, on the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course, she proceeded to win the North and South amateur against many of the best female golfers in the country, playing 97 holes of match play (six matches) in seven-under-par. Along the way she defeated veterans Tish Preuss and Martha Wilkinson on the same day, then crushed Mrs. Alice Dye 6 and 4 in the finals. "I think I know how the first woman to lose to young Babe Zaharias must have felt," said Mrs. Dye.
Because she failed to make the cut at the Women's Open last month, Hollis was kept from a starting spot on the U.S. Curtis Cup team. Some voices around the ladies' tee have been raised to say that she should have been selected anyway. A North and South champion is almost always picked and, besides, she has defeated four Curtis Cuppers in match play. But Hollis hides her disappointment admirably. "It's my own fault," she says. "I shouldn't have left it to chance."
Her good friend Nancy Hager, from Dallas, who is a Curtis Cup appointee, and the two blonde Californians, Debbie Grove and 14-year-old Laura Baugh, will be Hollis' stiffest challengers for the Girls' Junior championship that begins this week at Apawamis Country Club in Rye, N.Y. If somebody doesn't stop her there, when will they? Next summer the junior tournament, as well as the Women's Amateur, will be held in her home state of Georgia.
"Hallelujah!" says Hollis' mother. "We'll get them then. We'll have the whole family out rooting."
Growing up in a family of 10 children probably had a lot to do with generating Hollis' competitive spirit, but the scrapbook of her early athletic achievements shows that golf came only after other adventures. Early on, she was a tennis player, than a champion soft ball thrower in a parochial-league meet, then a forward on her Blessed Sacrament eighth-grade basketball team.
All along, she loved swimming above everything, but ear trouble forced a switch to golf when she was 11. Hollis "played like a nut for three months," sometimes 42 holes a day, through mosquitoes, sun and dust at the Savannah Golf Club. She became dehydrated, suffered heatstroke, lost 10 pounds and missed the first week of school. After a few months she shot 43-43—86, but nobody believed her, least of all, boys. A couple of them played a friendly match with her soon thereafter, and when she went par, birdie, eagle on the last three holes they walked off the green, presumably to go find a football.
Three years ago Hollis entered her first national junior, at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra, Calif., a tournament where "all I remember is Mrs. David Welts going around watching everybody, and then me hitting it into the swimming pool off the practice tee." Then, last summer, she won the title by defeating beauteous Janey Fassinger.
"Baby" is what most of the other girls call Hollis, but at home she is hardly coddled as a celebrity. After she won the North and South she baby-sat for two days while her parents caught up on their own games. Her baby sisters recently were made to clean the house for a visiting journalist. "Oh, why did Hollis have to go and do all this?" asked 9-year-old Mary, who tends toward the dramatic. "Why? Why? Oh, I hate it. I hate golf."
Among a parental group whose zeal for the success of their offspring sometimes forces the USGA to bar some of their number from the course during tournaments, the Stacy approach is unique, refreshing and, on occasion, somewhat humorous. After Hollis had failed to telephone back home following her first round in this year's open (which was also the birthday of her mother and brother), Jack Stacy ripped off this biting telegram: "Your mother's birthday has come and gone. Stop. I hope you shank and OB all day. Stop."
"I never get mad at what my kids shoot or how they score," says Jack. "I just want them to call and tell me what happened." Tillie Stacy is even more to the point. "We don't insist on Hollis practicing or anything like that. Too many mothers shoot off their mouths when they shouldn't."
The attendant problems of sibling rivalry have not been lost on the Stacy family. Tommy, an outstanding golfer in his own right, has often been wounded and, according to his mother, "had his nose put out of joint." In the newspapers Tommy is always "the brother of...." At school his classmates sometimes refer to him as "Hollis." After Tommy won the state PGA scholarship a reporter asked him if he was "inspired" by Hollis. "I inspire her," he said.
"Hollis gets good press, Tommy gets bad press," explains their father. "I hope this doesn't hurt you," he said to her the other day, "but Tommy is a better golfer than you are in some respects."
"You're really hurting me, Dad," Hollis replied, with no little sarcasm. Later, she remarked, "I realized a long time ago that when I beat boys their feelings were hurt. It's all pride. They felt like moles, and I understand."
Apart from golf Hollis lives the normal teen existence: school (honor roll), movies (M*A*S*H*), books (The Godfather), music (Three Dog Night), clothes, cars and boys, none of whom she dates steadily.
She is almost indifferent about her future in the game since she has no desire for the life of a professional golfer. "It would be a good business, I suppose," she says. "But I couldn't do it constantly. I get sick of the game after two weeks. Some of the amateur women have the perfect setup—they have married well, they can have babies and stay at home and then go to the tournaments they want to go to. I'd like that. But I don't think I'll play competitively after I'm 24. By then I'd better be settled down."
For now she is content with facing up to no problems more serious than an occasional dispute between her younger sisters—like this one, that took place at the golf club restaurant:
Martha: "Can I sign for a sandwich?"
Mary: "You don't know how to write the order."
Martha: "Well, yes I do, but I don't know how to spell it."
Mary: "You don't know how to spell bacon?"
Martha: "Oh, that? Sure...BLT."
At moments like that, Hollis may walk out on the golf course alone and practice short irons and sand shots, the finest part of her game. Then she will play some monkey golf—zigzag around the course, skipping holes, crossing others, deliberately hitting into three traps before aiming for the greens, playing the course backward, for she hates to play 18 straight through.
Often she will set up situations—challenges to herself—as she did recently while playing the 9th hole of the difficult Harbor Town course on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
"Here she is, golf fans," Hollis intoned into an imaginary microphone while preparing to hit her second shot. "Hollis Stacy in deep trouble now after a bad drive. She is way off the fairway in weeds and dirt and has to come a long way over trees into a tiny green with the flag set back into the right. How to get it up and down for a birdie and her fifth open championship?"
Hollis skulled her second shot onto a hard mound and left it still 30 yards short.
"She hits and...whoops. A skull! Onto a mound in weeds, in between trees. What can she do now?" announced Hollis. "She needs a four to tie and force a playoff tomorrow. It's an impossible shot. Wow, what a situation to be in, going for her fifth open title!"
Then Hollis Stacy set herself, lips grim, eyes wild, tiny red earrings taut—golf's new Shirley Temple at the crossroads—and pitched dead on the stick, a foot away. She made par and tied for her fifth open title. Only Hollis knows if she won the playoff but, wow, what a situation to be in.