While Arnold Palmer was failing at Akron in his attempt to sweep the major U.S. golf titles, at the hilly, green Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, Mickey Wright was missing a slam bid of her own. She sought a third straight U.S. Women's Open championship, but the title was won by 32-year-old Betsy Rawls (right), a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas and Spartanburg, S.C., who did manage to set a record by becoming the first golfer ever to win the Women's Open championship four times.
Victory came to Betsy Rawls after a record-tying 68 on the morning of the final day, then a sudden collapse by Miss Wright and a memorable challenge by stocky Joyce Ziske, who lost on the final yard of the final hole. There Joyce missed a short putt that would have tied her for the lead.
Even under placid circumstances, women often are pretty excitable creatures. Shaken by the pressure of a national golf championship, they bubble like bottles of warm champagne. "I like to get keyed up," said Mickey Wright. "I can feel it coming on for several days. I start talking fast and jerky, like I am now. If you're not keyed up, you start playing too relaxed and sloppy."
In the early rounds there was nothing relaxed or sloppy about the tall, pretty Miss Wright. Driving and putting beautifully, she put together 1-under-par 71s on the first two days. Miss Rawls, a short but accurate driver and an exceptionally skillful chipper and putter, meanwhile wrestled fretfully with wavering short irons and numerous putts that rimmed the cup and stayed out. She finished 36 holes at 149, seven strokes behind Mickey.
But next morning Betsy shot a 68, while Mickey's putting turned sour. When the two went in to lunch at 12:30 they were tied for the lead at 217, three strokes ahead of Miss Ziske, who had fashioned a 71 in the morning.
"On that front nine in the afternoon," Betsy said later, "we both completely lost control of our emotions. We were scared, tense, shaky, nervous, unable to think—everything."
Both shot shaky 40s on the outgoing nine and lost the lead to Miss Ziske, playing a hole back, who had scored a steady par 35. Then Betsy got a grip on her nerves at the 10th, a par-3. She chopped her second shot out of deep grass below the green, and got her par with a three-foot putt. "I got a big lift," Betsy said. "If I bogeyed that hole I knew I was through." Mickey did bogey the hole and was through, finishing the round with an 82 that required 38 putts.
Betsy picked up four birdies after the 10th and finished with a 75 for a 72-hole total of 292. Then, a half hour later, she stood at the edge of the 18th green and watched frantically as Joyce Ziske missed the putt that would have tied.
"It was agony, agony," said Betsy Rawls.