"I remember winning a couple of tournaments where first place was $350," said Marlene Hagge early in the week, marveling at the prospects of spending $20,000 on new clothes. When Marlene and her sister Alice joined the LPGA tour in 1950 they were driven from stop to stop by their parents, and they eked out a livelihood by staging exhibitions.
The Colgate people used the tournament the same way they would employ a 10�-off sale. Besides the TV spots, some of the girls gave talks at company sales meetings, 20 million leaflets boosting the tournament deluged Occupant boxholders and Colgate reserved the television time. The company invited 60 clients and business associates to join with Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra and the usual others in the pro-am, then threw two lavish dinner parties during the week, budgeting it all close to $5 million for advertising and promotion. "I think we're going to get more of a return out of this than we would have from a regular promotion," said David Foster, the avid golfer who is president of Colgate.
"I've never known a group of people like these women," he enthused. "They're not prima donnas. They're terribly natural. There's nothing too much for them to do. I think they're terrific."
There always has been the pull-together spirit of an emerging nation about the women's tour. While the male chauvinist golfers have a large staff to handle details, only Erickson and his assistant, Gene McCauliff, serve as administrators for the LPGA. The women golfers make their own pairings, keep statistics, make rules judgments and occasionally make contacts for future tournaments. They also have a rigid system of automatic fines for everything from failing to attend a pro-am cocktail party to unsportswomanlike conduct.
Palm Springs and the Mission Hills course posed separate quandaries for the women during the week, the first because of the nighttime, the second because of the daytime. Tantalized by the big purse, the golfers secluded themselves back at their motels during the evenings discussing the day's play and then going to bed. No one visited Jilly's, the Palm Springs Sinatra-watching place, preferring to conserve energy for Mission Hills by day. "This isn't the week to stay up all night," explained Sandra Elliott. "You can party at Waco."
Part of a complex that squats on 680 acres of transformed desert leased from a group of seven Indian families, Mission Hills has been open only 14 months. During that time, there has been just one rainfall, but an extensive irrigation system can dump up to 2� million gallons of water a day on the grass.
Golf Architect Desmond Muirhead had a million yards of dirt moved to build the course, constructing four lakes and a generous amount of rolling fairways and greens in the process. The course played to 6,352 yards for the tournament and the final 570 were the most treacherous, setting up the prospects of an exciting finish. The par-5 18th has water guarding the length of the left side of the fairway, and the green is completely surrounded by water. In addition the prevailing wind usually is in the golfer's face.
It was at the 18th that Mickey Wright's chance for victory drowned on the first day. Most of the women professionals think Mickey could have made just as much money on the men's tour as she did on the women's circuit when she was playing at her zenith in the 1960s. And on Friday she was nicely under par and was challenging for the lead after 17 holes. Then she put two shots into the water.
Judy Rankin birdied the 18th that first day, and she did the same on Saturday, stamping her finishes with the flourish of a winner. But her Saturday round was not all that serene. After sinking an 18-foot putt on the seventh hole to keep from going over par for the round, Judy was accosted by Yippy while she walked to the eighth tee. "You're playing good, now start thinking," he growled. She thought her way to a two-under-par.
"I tried to put pressure on her all day," said Jane Blalock, who played Saturday's round with Judy. "But every time I did, she came back."