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KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THE BALL
Barry McDermott
June 19, 1972
Which is what the women pros did last week, especially when it belonged to Jane Blalock, who was accused of cheating
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June 19, 1972

Keeping A Close Eye On The Ball

Which is what the women pros did last week, especially when it belonged to Jane Blalock, who was accused of cheating

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"Her determination was something that really impressed me," says Jan Ferraris, Jane's traveling companion for her first few months on the tour. "You could just read it in her face. Even though she had done nothing as an amateur she had this confidence in herself. Jane could tell that her perseverance was going to pay off, that she was going to make it. She did what a lot of other people can't do, put pressure on herself and produced. The more pressure Janie put on herself the better she got."

Jan was awed with the mental effort Janie put into the game. Frequently during long drives between tournaments Jan would ask Janie what she was thinking about. "My swing," invariably was the reply. "We'd be watching television," says Jan, "and all of a sudden she'd say, 'I just thought of something.' She'd get a club and go to the mirror and work on her swing."

Jane Blalock's single-minded devotion to her game undoubtedly is one reason why she is not particularly admired by the other women. As the husband of one of them said prophetically before play began in Sutton, "It takes a certain kind of person—and I know I wouldn't want to be that kind—to be able to play well while all this is going on. I think Janie is that way."

Jane won less than $4,000 her first year, picked up her first title and $12,000 the next and last season jumped to third on the money list with $34,000 and two victories. Despite her troubles she had earned as much by midseason this year, winning two tournaments, including the Dinah Shore-Colgate event in Palm Springs, Calif. worth $20,000.

But last week many of Janie's peers were treating her like anything but the group's leading money-winner. They snubbed her and her family, put pressure on her friends to ignore her and seemed determined to continue the mistreatment until she was ruined. As one player said, the majority apparently wanted to plow her under.

"I like to feel that I am a compassionate person," said Janie one evening, reviewing the situation. "And it disturbs me that I see so many other girls without compassion. The last few weeks I'd walk into a roomful of people talking and they'd stop when they saw me. It was like everyone knew something except me. It was a feeling of complete anxiety. I couldn't eat. I'd lie in bed with my eyes open. If I ever came close to losing my mind, it was then. They were playing games with a person's life. I don't think they realize it."

But there was another game being played, one with sticks and dimpled stones instead of stinging names, the one for the LPGA Championship, the third-richest event on the circuit. Jane arrived filled with apprehension and started with a bogey by three-putting the first hole, but then she settled down to subpar golf for most of the day until she bogeyed three of the final four holes. Still, she had played well enough to share the lead with seven others.

"Look at her," said one of the golfers as Janie was surrounded by reporters, a sight often repeated during the week. "If I had been caught doing what she was doing, I wouldn't have the nerve to show my face around here. I'd be in South America."

"If I can get by today, I can do anything," said Jane. "It's really hard to put into words the way I felt, playing. I knew it was going to be either real good, or real bad." And then she added: "I had a good putting round—even over the spike marks."

Jane could laugh but, like a raindrop skidding haphazardly down a window-pane, the hysteria surrounding her gathered momentum as the tournament progressed. Her father said there was a newspaper article that suggested Janie had a drug problem stemming from the medication she took for a back condition. Another rumor had it that Janie's fellow pros would boycott future tournaments if she continued to play. For fear of sabotage she took to carrying her putter and driver back to her motel room.

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