With good golf that grew steadily better as the week progressed, Cynthia Hill, a tall blonde with about as low a public profile as contemporary American sport allows, won her first Women's Amateur title after seven years of trying. Then she collected a lovely old trophy that has been passing quietly from champion to champion since 1897, grinned a lot over the top of a glass of Michelob and caught a plane home to Colorado Springs to report to work at 8:30 Monday morning.
That's the way it is in amateur golf—one day, acclaim for being the best there is, the next, back to the stock room. In Cindy Hill's case, the stock room is in a busy women's clothing store in a resort hotel, where she supervises receiving and sells a little on the side. The 26-year-old winner played 110 holes of match-play golf last week at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle, 5,942 yards of side-hill lies, lush rough, firm, fast greens and towering evergreens on the edge of Lake Washington. In five days and six matches she was a hole down to an opponent only once, and that was on the first hole of the first day of play. She evened the score on the second and was never behind again. In fact, she never saw the 18th from the day she qualified with a one-over-par 73 until the morning half of the 36-hole final against defending champion Carol Semple, whom she beat 5 and 4.
Hill's win marked the return of the Amateur to the Northwest for the first time since 1961, when it was played in Tacoma and won by Anne Sander, then 23 years old. It was the second of her three national titles and she did it with an alltime record score for USGA events—14 holes up with 13 to play. Northwest golfers have won or been runner-up for the women's title 14 of the last 19 years. The dynasty began with Pat Lesser in 1955 and continued through the reigns of five-time champion Jo Anne Gunderson Carner, Anne Quast Decker Welts Sander and Mary Budke of Dayton, Ore., the 1972 winner.
As a result of all those years of exposure, women's golf is big news in Seattle, big enough, in fact, to share sports page billing with Intrepid, the Seattle entry in the America's Cup sweepstakes. Seattlites turned out at Broadmoor in numbers that warmed the hearts of the USGA's blue-jacketed officials, who, with the exception of the U.S. Open, are accustomed to staging their events in less-than-splendid isolation. The crowds were middle-class and middle-aged, on the whole, knowledgeable about golf and appreciative of the historic significance of matches such as the third-round meeting of Anne Sander, a Broadmoor member, and Peggy Conley, now a schoolteacher in a Seattle suburb. In 1963 Conley was a 16-year-old from Spokane who reached the finals, the youngest ever to do so, but she lost to Anne, who was on her way to her third win. This year the match went two extra holes before Conley, her waist-length brown braid swinging in rhythm with her clubs, finally won.
As much as the spectators enjoyed the girls, the golf and the glorious August weather, the players enjoyed each other's company and the hospitality of the host club. The best, the ones who are likely to survive more than a round or two, must conserve their energy and their concentration for endurance tests like the double round of matches on Thursday or the 36-hole final, should they get that far. But for such as May Haarlow, a gregarious five-handicapper from Downers Grove, Ill., who has failed to qualify two years in a row but who stays on for the rest of the tournament anyway, the Amateur is a house party, a class reunion, an old-fashioned homecoming weekend.
Even for the best golfers there is more than just hard work. Early in the week, on a particularly balmy evening, Bob Ihlanfeldt, the tournament chairman, and his wife Edean, a former amateur competitor and now a USGA committeewoman, gave a dinner on the terrace of their waterside house on Lake Washington for some 50 people, including the members of the U.S. and British Curtis Cup teams. The guests were transported on club members' boats from the Seattle Yacht Club to the Ihlanfeldt home. On the return trip Debbie Massey, a bright, easygoing 23-year-old who was the tournament's medalist with a two-under-par 70, and P. J. Boatwright, the long, lean and patrician-looking executive director of the USGA, were kidding each other on the stern deck of their craft, Boatwright gesturing as if he intended to toss Debbie overboard. Massey, who is 5'8", lifted P. J., who is approximately 6'2", and held him aloft until he pleaded to be set down, saying she might hurt her back. "I could just see the headline," said Boatwright the next day. CURTIS CUPPER FORCED TO WITHDRAW! INJURED WHILE HORSING AROUND WITH USGA EXEC.
Massey, who taught skiing at Mount Snow, Vt. last winter while keeping her golf game in shape by hitting balls into a net, has won three important amateur events this year, finished low amateur in the Women's Open at La Grange, Ill. (tied for seventh) and played on the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team three weeks ago in San Francisco. Last week, Debbie had to beat three tough opponents to reach the semifinal round, and once there she faced probably the only one in the tournament who could have beaten her, Cindy Hill.
On the eve of their match Massey said, "I don't think we've ever played before, but I know what kind of golfer she is and therefore what kind of golf I have to play. She's a great player and I am going to have to do my best."
Massey, as it turned out, was not at her best. Possibly she was unnerved by Hill's birdies on the first two holes. Cindy, playing superbly around the greens and just about everywhere else, too, closed it out, 4 and 2.
Meanwhile, in the other half of the draw, Carol Semple was making things as hard for herself as she could, battling back from behind in every match but one to reach the final, and charming the galleries with her unaffected manner and her big, easy swing.
"I don't know why I always get down," she said in one of her daily bouts of self-analysis for the benefit of the inquiring press. "I would much rather not battle back from behind."
Carol spent the winter at La Romana, a resort in the Dominican Republic with a course designed by golf architect Pete Dye. She had been hired to organize recreation programs, but when it was discovered she had a real estate license and some experience near her home in Sewickley, Pa., she was put to work selling condominiums. She also took up polo. Heather Semple, 14, who followed her sister Carol every step of the way at Broadmoor, said, "We all hunt, and polo was a sort of cross between riding and golf. She's really good at it, too."
Early this summer Semple won the British Amateur, the first American golfer to take the title in 10 years. The victory gave her two national championships in one calendar year, but since then she has not played well in the big tournaments: the Broadmoor (Colo.) Invitational, the Western Women's Amateur and the Trans-National. "Things are just back to normal," she said. "I still can't believe I won the British. I played spectacularly."
The morning of the final round was foggy and cool and the dew was heavy for the first time, making the course play somewhat longer and complicating club selection. But none of this was enough to explain the way Hill and Semple played the morning 18 of the 36-hole final. They went at it as if the object were to come out high scorer. After nine holes Semple was seven over par and two down. Through 18 she had shot an 84 to Hill's 79 and was three down. The pair had totaled one birdie, 18 bogeys and a double-bogey.
Something settled them down during the lunch break—maybe food, quite possibly embarrassment. Hill immediately extended her lead to four, and at the 23rd and 26th she added two more, but this time she was winning her holes with birdies and halving them with pars. Semple, who was six down and probably would have been counted out had it not been for her come-from-behind wins earlier, finally got one back at the 27th when she sank a 10-footer for a birdie to Hill's par. In the course of nine holes, the 19th through the 27th, Semple had been in position to win holes three times and each time Hill had topped her effort with an even bigger one.
The gallery of 1,500 people, plodding through the still wet grass, was rooting for Semple to pull off a miracle but whistling softly in awe of Hill's play. Semple held on, though dormie, at the 31st hole with a 25-foot birdie putt, but the lopsided battle ended on the 32nd, the par-3 14th, when she left herself a 50-foot putt. She managed to get the ball down in two for par, but when Hill did, too, the match was over.
Cindy Hill, who had lost in the finals in 1970 and 1972, was a winner at last. She had played two-under-par golf in the afternoon round and Semple had improved to even par, so no one had to feel embarrassed, except possibly Hill's young caddie, Dave Shuler, who blushed through his freckles when the winner kissed him on the cheek but looked pleased all the same.