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The Mission Hills course has been the site of all three Colgate events and it fit the women like a pretty spring dress. They didn't have to play wood shots out of wiry rough, as they do at the Women's Open, since the length was only 6,300 yards, but the players had to manage the ball because the course was heavily trapped and the greens were undulating. Its most spectacular hole was the 18th, the par-five of 570 yards which has water all the way down its left side. That forced the player to hit her third shot over the water to an island green that was half an acre in size, with a putting surface that had more rolls than a circus fat lady. There were spectator stands overlooking the green and each day people who normally would have been at a demolition derby sat there and poked each other in the ribs with their elbows as the balls splashed. The players nicknamed the hole Ghouls Corner. On Thursday, when gale winds swept the area and gave everybody a freshly sandblasted look, there were only two birdies and 14 pars on the hole.
The relentless wind made it a horrible day for golf. Shelley Hamlin went to the practice tee before her round and stalked off with the comment, "I give up." She then staggered around in 92 shots. Donna Young, tied for the lead at two under, made the turn back to the clubhouse and into the wind, and bogeyed the final five holes. "It was ridiculous," she said. "You'd putt the ball and it would go up to the hole and the wind would blow it back two inches." Mann shot an 82, and Kathy Whitworth had an 80.
Prentice somehow made a birdie on 18 for a 71, to trail first-round leader Betsy Cullen by a stroke, and said it was the finest golf she ever had played in 17 years on the tour. Haynie was a stroke behind her, Blalock two.
The winds died on Friday and 21 players, including the persistent Shelley Hamlin who had a 69, shot par or better. Judy Rankin also posted a 69, birdieing the 18th by cutting a five-wood third shot around a palm tree and over the water, and she moved into a tie for the lead with Prentice. Haynie and Blalock were two strokes behind. Much of the day belonged to Laura Baugh, however, the tour's bonafide starlet and a delight for entrenched chauvinists. Wearing daisy earrings, the petite, honey blonde chipped in for an eagle on the ninth hole, her second in two days, then chipped in again on the 10th for a birdie that sent the hearts of Colgate executives fluttering as they anticipated Baugh standing curvaceously in front of sputtering flashbulbs on the victory stand Sunday. Laura had trouble the rest of the way and managed a 72, bogeying the last hole. "It always puts me in a bad mood when I bogey the last hole," she sulked.
On Saturday the leaders played as if they saw thousand dollar bills underneath their golf balls. Prentice complained about misclubbing several times en route to a 74 while Rankin hit 16 greens and walked away disillusioned with a fat 78. She three-putted four times and did not have a birdie, causing husband and critic Yippy Rankin to comment caustically, "She'll never win a big golf tournament because she can't putt."
Haynie edged into the lead with a 69 that was marred only by a bogey on the par-three 17th, where she bunkered a tee shot. She used one of those drivers that give off a ticking sound, a club with a black graphite shaft; she said it added 20 yards to her drives.
Trailing by a stroke were Kathy Cornelius, the winner of the rich Sealy event last year, Blalock and Prentice. Cornelius came to Palm Springs fresh from a trip to Florida for an emergency lesson with teaching pro Bob Toski after she missed the money in two tournaments earlier in the season. The trip cost $1,000, but when she birdied the final two holes Saturday for a 69 she said it was worth the money. Then she slipped to a discouraging 81 the next day. Blalock shot a 70 in the third round, and went out to practice her driving. She had snapped a string of 16 consecutive winless months with a victory in Mexico in March and said she was playing with more confidence than she had in a long time.
That left only Sunday and the nervous last few steps. Afterward David Foster threw a victory party that celebrated not only Jo Ann Prentice but the rest of the LPGA players as well. One thing was certain. Women's golf would never be the same.