Strangely, no one truly suspected that Simpson would rise to such heights this year. A transfer from City College of San Francisco, where he was not regarded as a line-busting type, he spent much of spring-practice time on the USC track squad, where he ran on the Trojans' world-record-breaking 440-yard relay team. But once the football season began there was no doubt that he was in a class by himself, that he had a rare combination of power, control, balance and speed. O. J. Simpson ran and ran. By season's end what he had really accomplished was the creation of the old-fashioned kind of excitement that makes college football unique.
Golf has never shaken its affinity for the amateur, even in this time when the professional game has grown beyond any predictable bounds. Hagen, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus are champions wonderful beyond measure, but the fervor of the golf fan has always taken on a special dimension when an amateur like Ken Venturi almost wins the Masters or a Marty Fleckman leads a U.S. Open after three rounds of play. And to this day, of course, when the golf establishment is asked to cite its alltime heroes there is never the slightest doubt that the name of Bobby Jones will lead the list, with that of Francis Ouimet not far behind. Yes, golf likes amateurs, especially when they beat the pros, and now the sport has another amateur to cherish, an upstart 22-year-old French miss with the build of an amphora, the boldness of a Palmer and the gall of a...well, a Lacoste.
In July at Hot Springs, Va., Catherine Lacoste, daughter of France's famed sporting family, part-time student at the Sorbonne (left) and part-time golfer, became the first amateur and the first foreigner ever to win the U.S. Women's Open. Her victory was a solid French cuff to the self-esteem of the world's best women professional golfers, a brisk uppercut dealt with a trace of haughtiness, a touch of naughtiness and, one must confess, even a bit of grandeur. The achievement was all the more glorious—or painful—because Mile. Lacoste proved to be the epitome of the amateur; for her, golf is a game. Would she ever join the pro tour? "I'd rather have acute appendicitis." What does she think of the U.S. competitive attitude? "It seems to be, 'I must win. I've got to win at all costs.' We Europeans don't care that much. After all, it's not your whole life." But why her own competitive determination? "Well, there had to be a champion in this generation of our family. It isn't possible, at least not in France, to be a top scholar and a top athlete at the same time, so my brothers became the scholars. It was my job to become the champion—not that my parents suggested it, of course. If they had pushed me, it would not have happened."
So last summer Catherine, who reacts to the thought of defeat about the way she reacts to the thought of turning professional, spent her spare time at Hot Springs in the swimming pool or at the movies or dancing the Charleston and the rest of her week winning the U.S. Women's Open, giving the Lacoste family, and amateur golf, another champion.