- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
But it has not worked out that way. The tournament's television ratings last year were in the top ten for all golf events, men's or women's. And Winners Circle fits in nicely with a $6-million promotional campaign that has everyone from Dinah to Arnold Palmer huckstering for it. Colgate even stuck a tournament ad on the back cover of the LPGA's media guide.
But best of all for the golfers, the Winners Circle tournament has been a catalyst for the rest of the tour. This year the women will play for purses of $1.8 million in Japan, Mexico, England, Australia and Canada as well as the U.S. There are four $100,000 events. Last year Kathy Whitworth won a record $85,000 and, of even more significance, the 30th girl on the money list earned $21,000. The tour has become a genuine source of income instead of a nice place to get a tan.
"Women's golf has grown because the public is learning to accept women as people instead of sex objects," said Carol Mann on Saturday as a large gallery streamed over Mission Hills. "It used to be that people were more concerned with our faces and bodies than with our golf. Now they are concentrating on what we do best. It's nice." At least four players—Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin, Sandra Palmer and Laura Baugh—approached or exceeded total incomes of $100,000 last year and several more could this season. It is getting so everyone needs a tax accountant.
There is even a group called, unofficially, the Colgate Girls. They are to women's golf what the Ziegfeld Girls were to a chorus line. They appear in company TV commercials and are paid above scale for it. You get to be a Colgate Girl by having a nice smile and diction, or by finishing in the top ten at Palm Springs.
More than anything else, last week's Winners Circle was a tournament of the women, by the women and for the women, a perfect balm for dishpan psyches. Besides the golfers and Dinah Shore, five other women were vital in staging the event—Tina Santi, deputy director of Colgate's corporate relations; Ellie Riger and Barbara Fultz, who worked with ABC television; and pro golfers and TV commentators Marilynn Smith and Cathy Duggan. They pointed out with justifiable pride that it was the first time a major sports event had been conducted in large part by women. Duggan, who attended school in France and Switzerland, mildly astounded the television audience on Saturday when she began talking in French. It certainly did not sound like Byron Nelson.
From the beginning the Colgate tournament had tried to achieve a distinguished image. The first year Dinah Shore thought it would be spiffy if she rounded up a group of good-looking Hollywood types to caddy for the girls. That idea was quietly vetoed. David Foster scheduled the tournament for the week after the Masters to ingrain the date in the public's mind. He established definite entry qualifications for the field and set about hosting a lavish party that would have impressed Jay Gatsby.
Each year the company invites a select group of its suppliers and customers to two days of pro-ams before the regular tournament, and Colgate does everything for them but teach them how to brush their teeth. There are a stunning series of evening gatherings where a batallion of chefs compete in such exotic categories as ice sculpture. One night the centerpieces had goldfish swimming in them.
The Winners Circle pro-am has a rule that no one with more than a 16-handicap can play in it. Usually the pros have to endure six-hour rounds with amateurs who only took up the game a few minutes before. But not here. It is said that in 1972 even David Rockefeller was denied a spot because he was a 17.
This year there was the regular sprinkling of celebrities. Dinah hit a Jack Nicklaus shot out of the water and made a par on one hole; Lawrence Welk went "anna one, anna two" before every swing and Peter Falk set a record for freezing over a shot. After several minutes he stepped away to announce that he had the wrong club in his hands and therefore did not want to swing, but that his grip was so perfect that he did not want to change clubs. Finally Columbo concluded, "I need a shrink to play this game."
Palm Springs is filled with guys in white shoes and white belts who want to tell you a story about Frank Sinatra, but it has a certain resort charm that the Colgate group finds appealing. Yet for most of the week the town's considerable night life took a beating. The women golfers stayed in their rooms, chipped practice balls into the draperies and dreamed about paying off mortgages.