The skirl of
bagpipes accompanied the award ceremonies on Sunday, but the record crowd of
25,000 that saw Betsy King win her first U.S. Women's Open at Lake Orion,
Mich., will remember a noise somewhat less musical: the sound of combustion. It
was heard repeatedly on the Indianwood Golf and Country Club's Old Course over
the weekend—that pffft, like a book of matches going up in flames. That's the
sound the other contenders made as they double- and triple-bogeyed, leaving
King alone atop the world of women's golf.
Mochrie...pffft. Patty Sheehan...pffft. Colleen Walker...pffft. Marie-Laure de
Lorenzi de Taya...pffft. Indianwood's volunteer gallery marshals, who were
issued fire extinguishers in case brushfires broke out in the Old Course's
knee-high, Scottish-style rough, could have used them instead on the leader
boards, where scores kept turning from sub-par flame red to over-par charred
King, who led or
shared the lead after every round, was very nearly scorched herself on
Saturday, when she was seven under for the tournament through the 14th hole of
the third round and seemed to be running away from the field. She made a bad
swing on the 15th hole, a par-5 with deep rough, a bordering pond and a narrow
landing area. Her drive found the golden prairie grass that romantics insisted
on calling heather, and the result was an unsettling bogey. She played the next
three holes in three over par, making a double bogey at 17 and a bogey at 18.
Having squandered her four-stroke lead, King finished the day tied with Sheehan
at three under. "If you're going to blow it, you'd rather blow it Saturday
than Sunday," King said.
She proved her
point on Sunday, hitting 12 of 14 fairways and shooting 68 while Sheehan and
King's other close pursuers went up in smoke. King's 72-hole six-under-par 278
was four strokes better than that of second-place finisher Nancy Lopez, who
surged late but never seriously threatened.
victory was her second major—she won the Dinah Shore in 1987—and left her peers
shaking their heads in wonder. After all, the 33-year-old King took more than
seven years to win her first pro tournament (the 1984 Women's Kemper Open),
then won 18 in just five years, more than any other player on the LPGA tour in
that span. King now has five wins this year, and the $80,000 prize money for
the Open boosted her earnings for 1989 to $503,794, an LPGA record for a single
season—with nearly a third of the tournament schedule remaining. Coming into
the Open, King had been in contention four weeks in a row and had won the
McDonald's Championship at the end of June. To the other players on the tour
she seems the very embodiment of consistency. "Nothing fazes Betsy,"
Mochrie said. "There's a quiet confidence about her. She just goes out and
does her job."
The Open offered
its usual array of sideshows and misadventures. Juli Inkster, the California
pro who won the Dinah Shore earlier this year, withdrew from the tournament by
phone on July 10, complaining of morning sickness. Her pregnancy, she
volunteered, was the fallout of a celebration after winning the Crestar Classic
in May. Informed by an abashed USGA official that not every tournament winner
celebrated "that way," the impish Inkster replied, "How do you
a different sort of discomfort for some of the players during the first round
on Thursday. Kim Williams played 12 holes in one under par before finding the
tall grass on the par-3 13th and taking an eight. "Absolutely awesome golf
course," she said after shooting 78. Defending champion Liselotte Neumann
missed six greens on the front side and blamed nervousness for her scrambling
style of play, although she shot par on a day when only three players broke it.
"I was hitting the ball very bad the first couple of holes," said
Neumann, whose every move was followed closely by a clutch of reporters from
her native Sweden. "I'm glad it's over."
King, whose 67
was Thursday's best score, was less awed by the Old Course. "The first cut
[of rough] and the cut that leads up to the heather are not as bad as in past
Opens," she said. "It's only in the heather that you're
Heather Drew, who
missed the 36-hole cut, carried an added burden around Indianwood.
"Everyone is taking my name in vain this week," she said. "I'm the
spokesperson for this terrible weed."
more of the same. Mochrie, who tied for third as a rookie pro in last year's
Open at the Baltimore Country Club, cruised into the 15th hole at four under
for the tournament, but crashed after a double-bogey fling in the fescue.
Fun-loving Linda Hunt, the club pro from the LPGA headquarters course in Sugar
Land, Texas, went on an even wilder ride. Hunt got to three under on Friday
afternoon, second only to King, and entertained her gallery with wisecracks and
carefree chatter. (Marshal: "Want that photographer to move?" Hunt:
"Not till he gets my better side.") When she hooked her ball into the
heather on the mean-spirited 15th, Hunt made like a carnival barker, crying
"Hurry! Hurry!" as she walked to her ball. Her championship dream died,
however, not in the heather on 15, but on the close-clipped grass of the huge,
undulating 18th green, where her 80-foot approach putt died atop a
woolly-mammoth grave, halfway to its target. Moments later, Hunt had
four-putted her way out of contention.