So naturally Carner went out Thursday and shot a 77 in the first round, pasting together a sloppy 41 on the last nine when she did things like chip into sand traps and three-putt from piddling distances. The round was more a symptom than a trend, however. She was tired from playing in her 10th straight tournament and instead of practice needed sleep. "I'm golf buggy," she said.
A lot of other players were bugged, frazzled by the steamy Chicago weather, the excruciating pace of play (accentuated by the players having to be bussed to a scruffy practice area set up in a field behind a nearby hospital), the difficulty of the course and the event. "If you figure in the time involved, it's like playing for the minimum wage," snapped Blalock.
The opening round belonged to Kathy Ahern, a big hitter plagued by inconsistency. She scattered a bagful of mistakes, but never two in a row, and finished with a 68 for a three-stroke lead. "I made a list of 10 players who could win this tournament," said Mann. "Her name wasn't on it."
In the second round the name of Debbie Massey surfaced. An amateur who is a ski instructor during the winter, Massey shot a 71 on opening day that everyone sort of ho-hummed over. An amateur ski instructor or boutique owner or cattle rancher always shoots a 71 in the first round of the Open, then shoots a 71 on her next nine. But Massey followed up with a 73 Friday that put her into a tie with Mann and Ahern for the 36-hole lead.
"Do you think you can play as good as the pros?" leading money-winner Jo Ann Prentice asked her.
"Yes," answered Debbie.
On Saturday Mann broke ahead by four strokes after playing par golf for 10 holes and seemed on her way to her second Open win. But Mann sometimes is a twitchy leader, and she turned timorous instead of aggressive and played the last eight holes in five over par to stumble in with a 77 for a 221 total.
It was a day when a lot of people were stumbling. No less than 19 players, a third of the remaining field, shot 80 or worse, Ahern and Massey among them.
Meanwhile, Ruth Jessen was chipping in, two-putting cross-country and not making mistakes, and she moved into the lead at 219, three over par. Jessen has been bothered by enough debilitating injuries and illnesses during her career to provide grist for a weekly TV series, but she is among the tour's best chippers and putters and was one of the few players able to solve the crop rotation along the edges of the LaGrange CC greens.
Jessen was doing anything only because her club members had raised $1,000 to pay her expenses to the tournament after she had decided to skip it. And when she arrived in Chicago, Jane Blalock helped correct some faults in her game. "I'm still not confident of it, though," said Jessen Saturday night.