Mickey Wright, the best woman golfer of all time, is an Alexander the Great in Bermuda shorts. She is only 29, but for her there are very few records left to break, frontiers to push back or worlds to conquer. It wearies her, it depresses her. A couple of weeks ago she confided in the director of the Ladies PGA tour, Lennie Wirtz, that she was in a mood to retire.
"You can't," Wirtz protested, dismayed at the mere thought of the tour's biggest gate attraction vanishing from the scene. "There's a lot you haven't done yet. You don't even hold the record for the lowest 18-hole score."
So the other day it happened that Mickey Wright walked off the 18th green of the Hogan Park Golf Course in Midland, Texas in a daze, but not in too much of a daze to go to a pay phone and call Lennie Wirtz.
"You know that scoring record?" she said. " Mr. Wirtz, I've got it now."
What she had done was shoot a nine-under-par 62 that broke the old LPGA record of 64 held by Patty Berg and Ruth Jessen. She set the mark on a testing 6,286-yard course where the men's record is 66. Some of the best male amateurs in Texas had played from the same tees in a tournament three days before, and the lowest scores were three 69s. Mickey herself had done no better than a 73 and a 72 in the first two days of what was officially called the Tall City Open. Thus her 62 stands, without ifs, ands or buts, as the finest round of golf ever played by a woman.
Nor did her day end there. Her 62 only enabled her to tie Sherry Wheeler for first place in the tournament. Mickey went back out and birdied two straight holes to win a sudden-death playoff.
Mickey Wright is tall and blonde and she wears crisp, neat blouses, crisp, neat shorts, and crisp, neat eyeglasses. On a golf course she appears to be all business, like an upper-echelon executive's thoroughly efficient secretary. But in reality she is leaping from emotional cloud to emotional cloud. She is such a long hitter, so accurate and so dedicated to the game, that many observers are surprised she does not win every tournament she enters. For Mickey Wright, however, the toughest person to beat has always been Mickey Wright.
"Sometimes I lose control of my emotions so completely," she has said, "that I don't even know where I am or that it's me hitting the ball."
The other week at Midland the emotional barometer had swung to another extreme. An inner voice was not only telling her where she was but that she could break the scoring record.
"It sounds cuckoo," she said later, "but I remember it clearly. I'd say to myself: 'O.K., don't let it slip away a shot at a time. You have an opportunity to shoot a really great round. Work hard. Bear down. Keep going.' "