Where was the President last week when Martha Wilkinson really needed him? Mr. Nixon, the sports fan, welcomed Ted Williams and Vince Lombardi to Washington, phoned Orville Moody after he won the 1969 U.S. Open, played host for a cocktail party for baseball's All-Star teams, called Gil Hodges when the Mets won the World Series, personally crowned the University of Texas No. 1 in college football and also phoned congratulations to Hank Stram after the Kansas City Chiefs beat Minnesota in the Super Bowl.
But where was he when Miss Wilkinson—who lives and plays golf within a few miles of the President's alma mater, Whittier College—was winning the U.S. Women's Amateur golf championship at the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Conn.? Martha is still waiting for the phone call.
Actually, Miss Wilkinson, 21, lives in Anaheim, Calif. and works in nearby Fullerton, but most people think she is from Whittier because she plays golf at the California Country Club there. "Everywhere Martha and I go," said Jane Bastanchury—Martha's best friend, who really is a resident of Whittier—"people come up to us and ask if we know the President personally." They answer no.
Despite the silent telephones at Wee Burn last Saturday after Martha rallied for a 3-and-2 victory over Cynthia Hill of St. Petersburg, Fla. in the 36-hole final, Jane Bastanchury does not think the President will completely overlook Martha's triumph. "Mr. Nixon sent me a very nice letter and a personalized golf ball a few weeks ago after I won the Women's Western," Jane said. "I'm certain that he'll send Martha a letter and a golf ball, too."
Presidents aside, Miss Wilkinson was an overpowering player in the Amateur right from the start. She was medalist in the 36-hole qualifying test, with a two-over-par 150, and then in 100 holes of match-play competition she never made anything worse than a 5 on her scorecard. Cracking off respectable 220-yard drives and incredibly accurate short irons, she resisted the opportunity to blow up once or twice and generally showed impeccable poise.
Her toughest match and closest call came in the first round against 17-year-old Nancy Hager of Dallas, probably the most eye-pleasing girl in the field. Nancy led 1 up after 16 holes, but Martha evened the match at 17 and won it with a birdie four on the long, uphill 18th. In the second round she squandered an early 3-up lead and had to win the 16th and 17th holes to eliminate Mrs. Pattie Boice. Martha beat Mrs. Dorothy Germain Porter, the 1949 amateur champion, in the third round, rallying from a disastrous three-down predicament after five holes. Then, in the semifinals, she shut out Shelley Hamlin, last year's losing finalist, 5 and 4, playing the required holes in two under par, her best string of holes all week.
By contrast, her competitor in the finals. Miss Hill, lived dangerously most of the week. She had to eagle the first hole of a sudden-death playoff just to qualify. Then she was pressed to an extra hole to win her first-round match against Mrs. Marcia Dolan. In the second round she caught fire briefly, and was two under par while routing Mary McKenna of Ireland, 6 and 5. Then she faltered again in the quarter-finals, falling 3 down to Mrs. Richard J. Canney in the first three holes before shooting three birdies in five holes and taking a 1-up lead after nine. After all that she finally won the match by birdieing the 19th.
Her semifinal bout with Jane Bastanchury was, well, chaos. Two up after nine holes, Cindy suddenly lost four straight holes and was 2 down. Just as abruptly, she birdied the 14th and 15th holes to even the match, then won the 16th to go 1 up. At 18 she made a difficult 12-foot putt for another birdie—her third in five holes—and gained the finals 2 up.
The championship match was hardly one of those grim-lipped, no-love-lost affairs that most men's contests turn out to be. Indeed, Martha, Cindy and Miss Bastanchury are all good friends. For the last two months they have been tournament-hopping around the country in a two-car caravan in which the order of formation is dictated by statutory imperatives. "Jane and I drive in the lead car," Martha explained, "because the speedometer in Cindy's car broke and she never knows how fast she's going." Before hitting upon this arrangement Cindy had brushed against the speed laws. "I was on my way to Tulsa," she said, "and when I looked at my speedometer it read 64 mph, so I pulled out and passed this policeman. A minute later he hit his siren and waved me to the side of the road. 'Young lady,' he said, 'I couldn't believe you'd pass me. You were going 80.' " Cindy put her best face forward and got off with a stern warning.
Martha, Cindy and Jane usually stay in the same motels and frequently dine together. Two weeks ago, during the Curtis Cup matches in Newton, Mass., they ran into some old-fashioned New England chutzpa. Miss Bastanchury was saying goodnight to Cindy and Martha, who were sharing a motel room, and when she opened the door to leave, the man from across the hall happened to be looking straight into their room. And, as Martha expressed it, "we weren't all dressed." Five minutes after Miss Bastanchury left, the girls' phone rang. It was the guy from across the hall, wondering if he might speak to the blonde in Room 314.
When they arrived in Darien four days before the Amateur, they decided to spend a day sightseeing in New York, doing the tourist bit on their first trip to the Big City. "We took a sightseeing bus around Manhattan, but the bus broke down and we had to push it to get it started."
Jane drove Martha and Cindy to the course for their 36-hole championship match, and then the girls had breakfast together. Cindy—wearing her Budweiser flip-it hat, smoking cigarettes, chewing gum—birdied the 17th and 18th holes of the morning round to take a 1-up lead to lunch. But after an hour-and-a-half recess Martha surged back and won the first three holes to take a 2-up lead as Cindy experienced some trouble with her driver—hitting into a trap on No. 1, pulling too far left on No. 2 and hooking out-of-bounds on No. 3. Cindy won the fourth with a birdie two, however, and she seemed ready to even the match at the fifth.
Instead she made a poor approach, and Martha dropped a tricky putt for her par. That turned the match, as Martha then won the 7th hole to go 3 up and later birdied the 10th to take a 4-up lead. Martha closed out the championship at the 16th when Cindy, whose nickname is Ducky, hit an approach shot into the water. "Any time I'm near the water," Cindy said, "I hit the ball into it. That's what a duck is supposed to do, isn't it?"
Right. And a President is supposed to call a champion.