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Summertime heat works in subtle measure on that sensitive and peculiar mechanism called woman. Warm weather changes her habits and hot temperatures make her hide. In the kitchen she abandons the oven; tuna fish is the only sane menu. Heat saps a woman's strength and wounds her disposition. Unless she has a beach, a bikini and coconut oil, she ranks heat and sun among the worst of enemies.
Last week, with wispy breezes giving the town all the atmosphere of a blowtorch, Pensacola, Fla. was hardly the place for a woman to be cooking, cleaning or playing golf. But there they were, about 100 of the best female golfers in the land, vying for the 17th USGA Women's Open championship in temperatures that threatened thermometers.
What these otherwise reasonable women would do in Pensacola every day was jump into a car, ride up the winding drives of Scenic Hills Country Club to the golf course, put on a funny hat, open up an umbrella, throw a wet towel around their necks, get dizzy, swallow a few gallons of Gatorade and some salt pills, feel woozy, shoot 80 and quietly pass out. Or sometimes pass out, then recover and shoot 80.
"It wouldn't be so bad," said Carol Mann on a coolish day when the temperature hit only 102�, "if you could breathe. You feel like you're in a box, and you just wish someone would please open the top."
Well, Sunday afternoon Donna Caponi, a bubbly 24-year-old in a pink gingham gown, came through 108� heat and a furious thunderstorm to open the top of the box. Chewing gum madly, kissing the ball after every good putt and mumbling an Italian version of "sock it to 'em," she shot 69 to come from five shots back and win the hottest Open ever with a two-over-par 294.
That Miss Caponi was not the favorite is no surprise, because favorites often do badly in the Women's Open. Indeed, the new champion had never won a pro tournament before, but that is a commonplace situation, too.
Since 1962, the year Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls ceased playing pat-a-cake with the Open title every year, the biggest prize in women's golf has been won only twice by top pros, Wright in '64 and Mann in '65
For the two years before that, the Open winners (Murle Lindstrom and Mary Mills) had never won a tournament. In 1966 another cycle started. First came Sandra Spuzich (winless before and since), then Catherine Lacoste (a French amateur, of all humiliating things) and in 1968 Susan Berning (a new bride who had played in only three '68 events).
The Misses Wright, Mann, Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie and a couple of other constant winners on the LPGA tour had their excuses, but mostly, aside from Wright, they seemed cowed by the very bigness of the Open.
"Our best guns get too tensed, up for this tournament," said Donna Caponi before the action even started. "Most of the rest of us don't really know how much an Open means. Kathy and the others try so hard and want to win so badly they can't play their natural game."