Catherine's differences with the Americans began even before the opening ceremonies. First there was a little harbinger. To wit: "I had met Jan Ferraris two years before. She's 20 years old, a pro and not a bad player at all. When she arrived in Hot Springs the Sunday before the Open I was so happy to see someone I knew. I was in a bathing suit with a towel, getting ready to go in for a swim, and I said, 'Come have a swim with me!' She looked shocked. She said, 'Oh, no, I haven't got a swimming suit with me!' I must have looked quite astonished, because she said, 'None of the pros carry swimming suits in their luggage.' I was so astounded I didn't know what to say. Here's a girl of 20 traveling all about the country in the summertime, and she hasn't got a swimming suit! And I suddenly realized what a difference there was between me and the American pros. With them it's business, business, business. In between rounds they sit in their rooms and figure out how they could have played better. They fidget and smoke and putt on the rug and worry. And because I would go out at night and do things like dancing the Charleston and swimming and bowling, they treated me as though I were some kind of a freak. 'Look at her!' they would say. 'She's in the pool again.' I would just smile politely."
A day or two before the opening round Catherine walked into the coffee shop at the Cascades Inn and spotted three of America's best-known lady golfers having breakfast. "I wouldn't dream of mentioning their names," she now says, "because it would be unfair to single them out. They're the same as most American pros. Anyway, I didn't have a game for that day, and I wanted someone to practice with. So I walked over, and I said, 'I wonder if one of you hasn't got a game today?' They laughed outright, all three of them. They said, 'Of course we've got a game!' What did I do? I just sort of backed away. What could I say? My word! Imagine, a foreigner going up to them and being treated like that! Why, if I'd been sitting there with two other French girls and some American girl had come up, why, we'd have broken up our own threesome to give her some practice. My word, it's simple etiquette! It isn't as though I'm some sort of ghastly player or putting on airs by asking to play a round with them."
At the end of the first round of play the visitor from France was tied for second with a 71. That was hardly good enough for anybody to care if she spent her time swimming or not. But on the next day Ren�'s daughter turned in one of the wildest rounds a U.S. Open gallery has ever witnessed. It was not so much her score, but the way she achieved it. On a difficult course, she made birdies at 2, 9, 11, 13 and 14 to go four under par and eight shots ahead of all the pros. She had only to play a tight, safe game to come in with a score that would have ended the Open right then and there. Instead she slashed boldly away, got into trouble and wound up with a 70 that should have been a 65. And while the chunky mademoiselle went off to see Namu, the Killer Whale with some vacationing kids she had befriended, the lady pros began to gabble. A previous winner of the Open announced, "No amateur could ever win this tournament!"
Catherine was now five strokes ahead of the field, but on the surface all was still sweetness and light, largely because she was not yet being taken seriously. "Should she manage to keep her fast pace and win the title, there will certainly not be any hard feelings among the U.S. professionals," The Roanoke World-News reported in what turned out to be the Dewey-beats-Truman motif. Lennie Wirtz, the tour director for the Ladies PGA, was quoted as saying, "They all love her. She played in our Open two years ago and when she went back home she sent every member of the tour a gift. Of course, it was a Lacoste shirt, but it was still a nice gesture." Catherine, who probably will be buried someday in a Lacoste shirt, especially appreciated Wirtz's choice of words.
Still, there had to be a few nervous shivers by certain members of the tour. If an amateur should win the tournament the whole ladies' professional golf tour would have to go through 365 days with no Open champion to advertise. There would be no pro champ to pick up the thousands of dollars in endorsements waiting for the winner at the 72nd hole, and every member of the tour would suffer financially because of diminished attendance during the year. Nothing like that could be allowed to happen.
On the third day Catherine played her first nine holes with atrocious abandon, four strokes over par. The pros and the impresarios began to relax. She was falling apart as expected. But her touch returned on the back nine. "And then they really began to apply the pressure," Catherine recalls. "I was playing with Susie Maxwell, and after I missed a putt I lined it up again and shot it over for practice. Now, this is quite illegal in some PGA tournaments, but under USGA rules you are permitted to take practice putts if no one is waiting behind you. In other words, if you are not delaying play. I had checked into all this on the first day, and I had taken practice putts earlier in the Open without anybody saying a word. But now there was Susie Maxwell marching over to the referee and saying, 'She just practiced again on that green. She's got two penalty strokes coming.' And the referee said, 'No, she hasn't.' And Susie Maxwell said, 'Yes, she has. The rule is written right there on your card.' The referee took out his card and said, 'Show me.' And she just turned around and walked away. Can you imagine? Later on Margie Masters tried to do the same thing to me, only I didn't find out about it just then, so it didn't bother me. I asked some of my friends about such behavior, and they told me it was quite clear that both the girls knew the rules, but they were trying to upset me. Perfectly normal in American golf, they said. My word! It takes the fun out of the game, doesn't it? Why, those girls will leave you in a pool of blood! I'm not blaming them, please understand. I'm just saying that it takes some getting used to."
On the fourth and last day of the Open the nerveless Catherine Lacoste, still five strokes ahead, suffered an attack of—well—nerves. "It wouldn't have happened," she says now, "but in American sports events television runs everything, and television decided that I should not begin my round with Margie Masters until 2:30 in the afternoon. Waiting and waiting and waiting, I got a pain in my stomach from the nervousness. But as soon as I hit a few practice balls, it went away. I think the tension might have had more of an effect on Margie Masters. She double-bogeyed the first hole, and how embarrassing it must have been for her! She was two in the bunker near the green, and she came out about four or five yards from the pin and went about a foot and a half by, and then missed that putt. Unbelievable! So now I was seven strokes up with 17 holes to play. I don't think that helped my concentration at all. I do know that starting with the 10th hole my whole game went sour. I took five straight bogeys. Imagine. One of my friends came up and said, 'Come on now, you've got to hold on.' But on 16 I shanked a seven-iron. I heard one of the pros say, 'That's Deadsville!' The ball lay on a path directly behind some television cables, so I asked that the cables be cut. Everybody acted very shocked and said I would have to play over them. I wound up with another bogey, and now I figured that I was only one stroke ahead of Beth Stone and Susie Maxwell."
The 15th annual U.S. Women's Open was won on the 71st hole. It was won on Lacoste guts, and the pros will still be babbling about it by the time the 30th Open is played. The hole is a 355-yard par 4, narrow and treacherous and shaped like a boomerang. Many of the ladies had been hitting nice safe three-and four-woods off the tee, leaving themselves another three-wood or four-wood to the green. Catherine Lacoste, having bogeyed six of the seven previous holes and almost blown her lead, pulled out her brassie and blasted a gigantic drive in a towering loop around the trees, cutting the angle off the dogleg and leaving herself a straight 110 yards from the pin. "People asked me later if I thought very much before I made that drive," she says, "and, honestly, I had to answer that I didn't. I remember, I just said to myself, 'Well, I'll hit it and see what happens.' "
Now she had another option. She could hit a safe iron to the left edge of the green, avoiding all hazards, and try to get down with two putts for her par. Or she could try to loft the ball over the pond that lay directly in front of the pin on the right side of the green and have a good chance for a birdie. She went for the pin. The ball cleared the water and stopped almost where it hit: 10 feet from the hole. Catherine drilled the putt so hard that the ball hit the back of the cup, squirted up, and then dropped into the hole for a birdie 3. When she crisply parred the 18th hole of the final round the rout of the pros was completed.
As soon as the Open was over, Tour Director Wirtz played the role of the good loser. "All right," he quipped, "you pros will line up under the trees and receive your 50 lashes." But earlier in the day he had had a few harsh words with Catherine, and evidently, as she now recalls, he was still piqued. "It started when I arrived at the club for the last round," she says, "and he walked up to me and said very briskly, 'I heard that you might not be playing in the Lady Carling next week.' And I said, I don't know, I might and I might not.' You can imagine how much my mind was on the Open right at that moment, not on some tournament the next week. So he said, 'Well, you'd better let me know.' I said, 'All right, I'll let you know this evening. I won't know myself till then.' He said, 'You've got to tell me before 9 o'clock this evening, otherwise you'll be too late.' I should have answered that an amateur has a right to do what she likes, that I was not one of his paid players that he can order around. But I was too polite. Anyway, right after I won I called my mother and father, and then I rushed back to the club for the ceremonies. Just as I arrived I met Mr. Wirtz walking toward his car. I was surprised to see him getting ready to leave before the awards, and I suppose I sort of expected him to congratulate me, but he didn't say a word. So I said, 'Mr, Wirtz, I'd like to tell you that I won't be playing in the Lady Carling tournament next week.' He looked at me for a moment and then turned his back and walked off. He didn't say a word! It wasn't a quarter of an hour after I'd won. I tell you, I was shaken by that! I suppose, looking on his side of things, he felt that it took something out of his girls for an amateur to win the U.S. Open. But I still think he acted terribly naughty."