As she grew older (and the least bit bigger) she proved she could be tough as well as tearful. In high school, in Alexandria and then in Opelousas, where her father was a club pro from 1953 to 1959, she played on the girls' basketball team, averaging a solid 18 points a game. ("She could make a hook shot with either hand," claims Cliff Creed.) Then, at 16, she entered her first major golf championship, the Southern Amateur. Despite an exceptionally strong field, she shot the lowest qualifying score, a par 72. She defeated the defending champion and six-time Curtis Cup player, Polly Riley, in the quarter-finals before losing in the semifinals by one hole.
"Everybody was certainly surprised," says Clifford Ann today, smiling at the recollection, "but I wasn't. At 16 I thought I could beat them all. I wasn't scared of anybody."
Apparently she still isn't. A couple of years ago she was playing in an exhibition event in Beaumont with Bob Hope, whose golf game can be as professional as his humor. On the last tee Hope flexed his ego and bet Clifford Ann a dollar that he could outdrive her. Their drives were very close. She claimed he lost, but he didn't think so and didn't pay up. Clifford persistently kept after him, and Hope, just as persistently, denied he had lost the bet. Finally she cornered him backstage at a show he was giving in town that night and demanded her dollar.
"Oh, all right," said Hope, and handed her two 50� pieces.
"No, I want a dollar bill," persisted Clifford Ann. She now carries in her wallet, as testimony to her tenacity, a dollar bill on which is inscribed a personal message for those she might show it to: "It's a lie. Bob Hope."
This is only one of the many souvenirs Clifford Ann has collected playing golf. The Creed attic fairly sags at its beams from the weight of more than 100 trophies. In 1955 she captured the first of her six Louisiana state women's titles. In 1956 she won the Western Junior championship, defeating JoAnne Gunderson in the finals 3 and 2. Three weeks later she lost to JoAnne in the finals of the National Junior. In 1957, in addition to winning the Southern and the two George May events, she reached the fourth round of the National Amateur for the third year in a row, losing to Barbara Romack on the 20th hole. This was a severe disappointment to her, but Clifford Ann was only 18 and seemed on the verge of a career as one of the country's finest women golfers.
Then, like a wisp of smoke on a breezy day, she vanished from the national scene. She was gone so abruptly, in fact, that a story circulated that she had run afoul of the United States Golf Association's rigid amateur code and had lost her amateur status. This rumor has been vigorously denied, not only by Clifford Ann, but by the USGA as well.
"I felt bad because I hadn't made the 1958 Curtis Cup team," explains Clifford Ann, "but the main reason I dropped out of big-time competition was that I wanted to work hard at college and get through with it."
Following graduation in 1960 she took a $3,650-a-year job teaching physical education at Scott Brame Junior High School in Alexandria. But a year later she made up her mind to resume tournament golf on a full-time basis. This decision not only interrupted her teaching career, it also scuttled plans for a November wedding.
"I knew after I'd finished playing in the Trans-Mississippi last August that I had to prove to myself that I could win," she says. "When I got back home I told my fianc� that we shouldn't get married until I got golf out of my system. But he wasn't a golfer. He didn't understand about golf. So our engagement was called off."