With an iron in her hand—a Sunbeam, not a five-iron—Anne Sander contemplated, first, the pile of clothes and, second, the drizzle outside her Seattle home. "I told you, I'm basically a housewife," she said. But there's nothing basic about the way she handles an iron—a five-iron, not a Sunbeam. A few days earlier she had enjoyed her most recent moment in the sun, a nine-stroke victory in the U.S. Women's Senior Amateur.
The 52-year-old Sander expresses no regrets that she didn't turn pro in the 1950s or '60s, when she and her friend JoAnne Gunderson dominated women's amateur golf in the U.S. "I just never wanted that kind of life," Sander says. "There were long stretches in my career when I only played in two tournaments a year. I've always wanted to prove that it's possible to compete on a limited basis, live a normal life, and yet remain competitive at the highest level."
Her play over the past three years has more than proved her point. Sander's convincing victory over runner-up Alice Dye and the rest of the Senior Amateur field at the Tournament Players Course, at The Woodlands, in Houston, in October was her second Senior Amateur title in three years. She reached the quarterfinals of the '87 and '88 Women's Amateurs. She won last year's Western Amateur—at 50—and was ranked as high as third this past summer in the
amateur rankings. Thirty-one years after her first Curtis Cup appearance, Sander seems likely to make the 1990 U.S. team, which will try to win back the cup from the British and Irish next July at Somerset Hills, in New Jersey. If she is chosen for the team, it would be for the eighth time (her seven appearances is the current U.S. record) and she would be the first U.S. woman to play in the Curtis Cup in five different decades.
One measure of Sander's longevity—and ability—is the number of USGA championship rounds she has played. Not counting sectional qualifying, she has turned in 228 USGA scorecards, more than any other player in history. Another measure might be the number of biographical data sheets she has filled out for tournament officials. Says Sander, "When they ask me how long I've been playing, I write, 'Forever.' When they ask, 'Did you play college golf?' I say, 'I predate college golf.' "
The latter statement is literally true. As Anne Quast, she played in her first Women's Amateur in 1952, at age 14, and she won the Amateur for the first time in 1958, just before her senior year at Stanford University. Stanford had no women's golf team at the time, and Sander paid greens fees to play the university's golf course, where the low 16 men played for free. When Sander, the reigning national amateur champion, applied for a waiver of the fee, Stanford's athletic director at the time, Al Masters, turned her down, saying, "A woman's place is in the classroom or the kitchen. The next thing you know, you'll be on the football field."
"It was just a different era," says Sander, showing no bitterness. "He was the last of the old guard. Things were beginning to change."
If Sander is less than a household name today, that is partly because the convention of a woman taking her husband's name in marriage did not change. Anne Quast won her second Women's Amateur, in 1961, as Mrs. Anne Quast Decker, and her third, in 1963, as Mrs. Anne Quast Welts. Both of those marriages ended in divorce. In 1971 she married Seattle stockbroker Stephen Sander, and she played on the 1974 Curtis Cup team as Mrs. Anne Sander. But from 1970 to mid-1973, she was missing from tournament golf. "I was very embarrassed about making a mess of my marriages, and I didn't play for three years," she says.
Whatever name she played under in the '50s and '60s, Sander invariably found herself cast in a continuing drama with Gunderson (who changed her name to Carner when she was married in 1964), a buoyant blonde from Kirkland, Wash., who could smack a ball 260 yards. In The Story of American Golf
, writer Herbert Warren Wind, struck by the opposite styles of the two women, marveled at Sander's ability to control "a high-pitched sensitivity that bordered on the tremulous in certain situations," and he described her swing as graceless and mechanical: "...there was a bit of a lift on the backswing, a bit of thump on the hit-through...."
Carner, who won five U.S. Amateur titles before turning pro in 1970, says Sander's austere image derived entirely from her style of play, not from her personality, which was then, as now, ebullient and spontaneous. "She was a Ben Hogan type," says Carner, "very accurate, down the middle every time. In my youth—I have to laugh—I thought that was boring golf. I was all over the place. I made more birdies from the woods than from the fairway, and people like to watch that. Anne was a very mechanical golfer, but she did express herself. She used to knock in those 30-foot putts and yell, 'Oh, Anne!' like it was the first time she ever made one!"
Interestingly, although they were the Nicklaus and Palmer of women's amateur golf for more than a decade, Carner and Sander met only three times in U.S. Amateur play. Sander won their 1958 semifinal match, one up; won in the 1963 semis, 3 and 2; and lost to Carner in the 1968 final, 5 and 4. Says Carner, "I used to try to hit my drive on the first tee as hard, as long and as straight as I could. I'd try to scare her, because the only thing she had a fear of was length. Otherwise, she could whup me."