SI Vault
 
A super keen-o show by La Grande Catherine
Roy Blount Jr.
August 25, 1969
That's the way envious American opponents would describe the performance of Catherine Lacoste, the French girl who last week added the U.S. Amateur championship to the Open title she won two years ago
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 25, 1969

A Super Keen-o Show By La Grande Catherine

That's the way envious American opponents would describe the performance of Catherine Lacoste, the French girl who last week added the U.S. Amateur championship to the Open title she won two years ago

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

But the U.S. ladies thought they had been disdained. That is apparently why Miss Hamlin said before the final round, without taking anything away from Cathy's super keen-o-mess as a player, "I don't want to beat her too bad. After all, she came all the way over here to play in our little tournament. No, no hard feelings. But a lot of little sneaky ones. I mean she's never kicked me or anything. But, as a lady said in the locker room the other day, she's about as diplomatic as de Gaulle. No, one-up wouldn't satisfy me. I do want to beat her bad."

Miss Hamlin, a 20-year-old Stanford student, played well enough in the 36-hole final round Saturday to crush most woman players. But La Grande Cathy was only one over par for the day, on a course which saw few par rounds. When she went four-up on the 30th hole, a lady in the gallery sighed, "Shelley's not going to make up a lead like that against her." Shelley hung in there with pressure putts, but the match ended on the 34th green, 3 and 2.

Miss Lacoste was not the only subject of conversation during the tournament. There was the weather, for example. Monday through Thursday the temperature stayed securely over 100�. The sparse galleries huddled in the sparser shade of scorched mesquite trees and swilled as much Gatorade and water as the players did. One man said his dog lay down and died of the heat the day before. Another maintained he had seen birds sitting in the street gasping.

Then on Friday morning, semifinals day, the rains came. They let up long enough for a few holes to be played on a course of suddenly intense green and against a sky of suddenly deep gray. Miss Lacoste, carrying a big red, white and blue umbrella and wearing a red shirt and turquoise blue corduroy jeans, was playing three-time champion, Mrs. Anne Quast Welts, wearing a cute little cutaway hat and pink shorts and carrying a little pink parasol. Mrs. Welts, who has won more matches—64 out of 77—in this tournament over the years than anyone else, has failed to advance at least as far as the quarterfinals in only two of 17 years. "And one of those two was the time I tried to play when I was pregnant," she says. "I was under the illusion that it didn't show. But then I saw the pictures."

Mrs. Welts, occasionally crying "No, Anne, don't do that" to herself, had Catherine down by three after 10 holes in the semis, but Miss Lacoste came storming back to win 2 and 1.

Even more impressive against the Frenchwoman were two new faces from Pennsylvania. Janie Fassinger, 17, of New Wilmington, hit so consistently far off the tee that people began to use her as a standard of comparison. Miss Lacoste had to play her best round—three under par for 16 hole, reaching all 16 greens in regulation—to stop Miss Fassinger, whose long blonde straight surfer's hair seemed to be giving her as much trouble as Cathy was.

Connie Hirschman, 22, of York, struggled through 38 holes in Wednesday's heat—20 to beat Mrs. Michael J. Skala in sudden death and 18 before succumbing to Cathy one-up in the second round.

The youngest new face, and perhaps the prettiest, belonged to a local girl, Nancy Hager, 16, of Richardson High School in Dallas, who went all the way to the semifinals before losing to Miss Hamlin one-up, and who announced, "I have learned that I am better than I thought I was."

Mrs. Carner's first-round loss was true to form, inasmuch as she generally either wins this tournament or loses early. If she had won this year, it would have been her sixth time, tying the record set by Mrs. Glenna Collett Vare, who dominated U.S. amateurs in the '20s and early '30s. JoAnne said the heat didn't bother her, although she came in from her defeat—to Mrs. Ann Baker Furrow, who was herself knocked off in the next round—with her forehead crusted with salt. Mrs. Carner, the only U.S. amateur who has beaten pros the way Cathy did in the Open, said she just couldn't get up for her match at Las Colinas. What with running the public par-60 course she and her husband own in Seekonk, Mass., she seldom plays competitively anymore. If she and Catherine had met in this tournament, the winner would have been regarded by many as the best woman golfer in the world. It will be a shame if the two of them never have another chance.

1 2