One of the more memorable sights of the Women's National Amateur last week was that of Defending Champion Anne Quast Welts, not because of her play—which was ragged enough to keep her from even qualifying for the head-to-head matches—but because of what a more Victorian era would have delicately referred to as her "condition." She was defending her title while nearly six months pregnant. If there is a precedent for this in sport, it does not come readily to mind and, as a result, the sensitive Mrs. Welts found herself somewhat of a celebrity at Hutchinson, Kans., just when she most wanted to be ignored.
Her decision to compete had not been made easily, or quickly. When Mrs. Welts realized last spring that she would be giving birth to her first child in November, she put aside the fact that she and her husband would sooner or later have to decide whether she should defend her title. She was busily occupied teaching history in the Mount Vernon, Wash. high school. Time enough to worry about the golf after school was out. There was ample reason to procrastinate for, as Mrs. Welts put it, "We had been married less than a year, and we were on strange ground."
When Mrs. Welts finally decided to go to Hutchinson it was by her own choice, but she acknowledges that she was strongly influenced by three persons: her husband, David, a Mount Vernon attorney; her physician; and Joe Dey, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.
David Welts had to overcome a kind of instinctive reluctance to let his wife whip off in the middle of her pregnancy for what could turn out to be as many as eight rounds of golf in six days. ' "He didn't encourage me," Mrs. Welts explained before the tournament began last week. "But he didn't discourage me either. I think that the trouble was that he had simply never thought of a pregnant woman engaging in championship athletic competition. The idea was completely foreign to him. If I had not been the defending champion I don't believe I would have entered, not because I didn't feel good but because I dreaded the attention that might come to center on the fact that I was nearly six months pregnant and playing championship golf. I was afraid of a fuss being made over what seems to me a perfectly natural fact. I couldn't bear to think of the possibility of reading newspaper headlines saying: ANNE WELTS, SIX MONTHS PREGNANT, RETAINS NATIONAL TITLE, OT PREGNANT ANNE WELTS KNOCKED OUT OF WOMEN'S NATIONAL. But then finally I said to myself, 'Look, golf is something you've been playing most of your life. There's no reason to stop playing it now.'
"A key factor in my decision to go ahead and play," said Mrs. Welts, "was the fact that golf is not a strenuous game. It is basically walking, and walking is supposed to be good for pregnant women. My physician, Dr. William V. King of Burlington, Wash., backed up my decision to compete. He told me, 'Pregnancy is certainly a normal condition of life, so why not try to live as you normally do which, for you, means to play golf.'
"Maybe it was fortunate for me that both Dr. King and my husband are avid golfers. If they had not been, one or both might have raised an objection based on the misapprehension that golf is a tough and strenuous game, which it is not. And don't forget that during the first months of my pregnancy I had gone right along handling 108 high school youngsters every day. After that, what's so tough about golf? Finally, a persuasive factor in my deciding to play was a strong sense of obligation, the obligation that any champion feels to return and defend his title. Every champion owes that to the game."
In June, Mrs. Welts wrote to Dey explaining her situation. She asked his advice. He wrote back, saying: "As long as your health is fine, the USGA will be very pleased to have your entry in this year's national tournament."
"If you know Joe Dey," Mrs. Welts said, "you know his restraint and that a statement like that from him is really an open-arms welcome."
Mrs. Welts approached the tournament at least outwardly serene. Her doctor had given her no special advice and no special diet. He had merely cautioned her to get plenty of rest between matches. But since this is precisely what Mrs. Welts has always done, his advice involved nothing out of the ordinary. About the only thing she did differently was to buy a couple of pairs of shorts a bit larger around the waist than usual.
On the eve of the tournament she had two main hopes: that attention would center on her golf, not her pregnancy, and that her putting would be sharp. She wanted the attitude of spectators and fellow players to resemble that of Ross Wilson, who has been the professional at Prairie Dunes Country Club since the club was founded in 1937. Upon first encountering Mrs. Welts at the Hutchinson course Wilson eyed her a moment and said, "I think, my dear, you have a secret. Let us keep it between us, shall we?"