When Sandra Palmer made a commercial for a Colgate-Palmolive detergent, she recited the dialogue in her gentle Texas twang.
"Dumb shot! Lipstick on mah nahlon shirt.... Hahm I gonna get that out?"
Now Palmer can throw away that nahlon shirt and buy 100 more, because by the time the Colgate-Dinah Shore Winners Circle LPGA Championship was over she had made only one dumb shot in four rounds and it was on the 72nd hole when it no longer mattered. She blew a 1�-foot putt in front of a gallery of thousands at Palm Springs and several million more TV watchers, but all it meant was she had won $32,000 by one shot instead of two.
Kathy McMullen came closest to catching Palmer, who led all the way, finishing second at 284. McMullen is a tall, strong 25-year-old from Florida who hunts bear in the Everglades and shoots pool to relax. She took advantage of a windless Saturday to fire a competitive course-record 66—as did Sue Roberts the same day—that placed her three shots behind Palmer at the start of the last round. She narrowed the gap to two midway through the back nine on Sunday, but a double bogey on the 14th hole ruined her chances.
Jocelyne Bourassa, a mercurial French Canadian who holds lengthy bilingual conversations with her caddie, the gallery, herself and the ball, made runs at Palmer on Saturday and Sunday, but fell back each day with three consecutive bogies on the back nine. She was within three shots of Palmer at the turn on Sunday, but finished in a four-way tie for sixth at 289, after which she wept on her caddie's shoulder.
Palmer's rounds, 70-70-70-73—283, five-under-par, were a marvel of consistency that reflected two weeks of diligent practice. She arrived in Palm Springs on March 30, and while living in the town-house she owns at a nearby development called del Safari, she played the 6,347-yard Mission Hills Golf and Country Club course every day until the tournament began, accustoming herself to the eccentricities of its nerve-grinding greens and the winds that blow down from Banning Pass and roar across the valley floor nearly every afternoon.
"I don't have a secret," Palmer said, after accepting the biggest prize in women's golf. "I just work hard."
Palmer is only 5'1�", but she has powerful calves and thighs. Her drives average 220 yards, with an occasional 240, and her hard work has earned her 13 tour victories and more than a quarter of a million dollars since she turned pro in 1964.
To understand the importance of the Colgate-Dinah Shore to Sandra Palmer, you have to take into account the fact that the total prize money in the average LPGA tournament is $40,000, with $5,700 for first place, so that winning the Shore is worth approximately 5� average tournaments. Even fifth place is worth more than first in most events. There are few players who would not rather win the Dinah Shore than the U.S. Open, and the devil take tradition.
"Once you turn pro, it's the money you make that you're judged by," says JoAnne Carner, who won the 1971 Open. "I'd like to see the Open be the most prestigious someday, but it isn't now."