Long before it is dark or even cool enough for the oompah band to come onto the stand and play the requests, the action in Snyder Park is full and sweet. Cars are pulled into the shade to be Simonized, picnic baskets are undone, teeter-totters are given full play and over on the course the Ajax Auto Wrecker guys, dragging their wheel carts behind them, come home to the accompaniment of the 6:00 bells from the Ohio Masonic Home. Though the Wreckers stand last in Snyder Park's Independent League, they are moving up on Falstaff and Blatz and may yet catch powerful, league-leading Dean's Movers.
Last weekend, however, Snyder Park was closed to public play, and the pursuit of Dean's Movers had to wait upon another game in Springfield, Ohio, the Ladies' World Series of Golf.
Springfield is an International Harvester town. It is proud to be the birthplace (1902) of the 4-H Clubs, and it is a place that evokes memories of Robert Preston marching down Main Street with Marian, the librarian, and 76 trombones. In it there is also a restaurant that just recently removed filet mignon from the menu because it would not sell. "Well," said the owner, "we aren't Dayton."
After three years of bizarre happenings, anyone concerned with the Ladies' Professional Golf Association image has to be wishing Springfield was Dayton or Cincinnati, or Prague, or anywhere. "We're here out of loyalty, or something like that," said Lennie Wirtz, the LPGA tournament director. "But I don't know how long we'll be able to stay."
The tournament, which matches the winners of the top three women's tournaments, plus the defending champion and two other leaders from the money list in a two-day 36-hole set for $35,000 in prize money, started three years ago in the red and has gone straight down from there into hard crimson. Originally, it was sponsored by 13 local businessmen who, in ample consideration of their zesty handling of the event, were called "The Trembling Thirteen." They published a statement, ipso post fiasco, to the effect that they had "lost" $19,000. Last year, after the tournament had been moved from the Springfield Country Club to Snyder Park—the club's membership did not appreciate sacrificing weekend Scotch-foursome time—the Junior Chamber of Commerce took over sponsorship and, with Shell Oil and Lincoln-Mercury helping to share the deficits, managed to lose only $2,200. Shell and the Fraternal Order of Eagles ("Champion Aerie No. 397") were aiming for minus $9,000 this year.
The problems are that an anticipated televison contract has never materialized, other large-business interests have shunned the tournament and so have people. The community has not exactly knocked itself out helping, either. Last Thursday afternoon found Wirtz hammering out-of-bounds stakes, lining drop areas and searching for boundary ropes and scorecards all by himself. "We didn't even have ticket takers the first year," he said, "but this is ridiculous."
The course, itself, was doing nothing to save the day. Highway construction that had piled towering mounds of dirt along two fairways and had backed up the water levels in the area left Snyder Park's 18 holes in dreadful shape. Much rain during the last month and 700 pounds of lime poured out to mark all the poor spots helped further to turn the course into a Toonerville Trap.
To the contestants, even the money in this richest of all women's tournaments—first place is worth $10,000—was becoming something of a bore. The field included four girls who had played in the World Series each year—Mickey Wright and Sandra Haynie from the money list, defending champion Kathy Whitworth and Canadian Open winner Carol Mann—and the two surprise winners of the tour's big events, Susie Berning, the Women's Open champion, and Sandra Post, the rookie who won the LPGA Championship.
"It's still a whole new experience playing for all that money," said Miss Mann, who has won seven tournaments and leads the LPGA this year in earnings. "But those of us who've been here each time are conditioned now. It takes a mental adjustment and, when we get adjusted, it's not so fascinating anymore."
"I think we've put so much prestige into the World Series," said Sandra Haynie, "that we think more about playing and winning than about the money. It doesn't awe us the way it used to."