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Delete the word "super" from their vocabularies and most women on the professional golf tour would be rendered semi-speechless. They use the word incessantly, to describe anything and everything—Amy Alcott, the 19-year-old tour rookie, for instance: "Amy? Super girl, super swing.... Super day, isn't it?"
Not that super is such a bad word for Amy. On her birthday, last Feb. 22, she was in St. Petersburg, Fla., firing a second-round 68 en route to winning the Orange Blossom Classic. It was only her third tournament as a professional, and she wound up with a record nine-under-par 207 (68-68-71) for the event and a check for $5,000. That sure beats a bowling party.
Not since Laura Baugh swiveled onto the tour has there been such a hot prospect in the LPGA. What happened to Laura? She was Rookie of the Year in 1973, earned some $36,000 last year and has a contract with Mark McCormack. But she has yet to win a tournament. Alcott has a McCormack contract, too, plus her Orange Blossom win.
She didn't waste much time. Alcott enrolled in the LPGA school in Miami on Jan. 20 with 42 other women, aiming for one of the 16 playing cards the school would issue. She shot a not-so-super 79-80-80 but finished in a tie for 12th, which was good enough. "I gave it everything I had and still didn't play well," she says. "But after I qualified, I felt everything else would be downhill."
Downhill, indeed. More like a vertical drop. In her first tournament she tied for 31st and won $230. Then 22nd and $350, and just one month after getting out of school, first place in the Orange Blossom. Alcott is not a bit reticent about her victory, confidence and determination being two of her long suits. "No, I'm not surprised I won so early. I won because I played the best," she says. "It was super—I had the confidence and desire to rip it up, and I did. People knew I was a contender the minute I teed it up." Then she adds, somewhat bewilderingly, "The most important thing out here is not to lose one's humility." Her fellow pros all mention her remarkable poise. "She is the most mature 19-year-old I have ever seen," says Sandra Post.
Alcott led from start to finish in the Orange Blossom, but the victory was not all that easy. She had to save a difficult par at 17 after her tee shot landed on a lady's purse. "Then when I came to the 18th, I didn't know I needed a birdie to win," she says. "All I was playing for was a par." Whatever she was playing for, she dropped a 20-foot birdie putt and had a one-shot victory over Post. Only Marlene Hagge, who took the Sarasota Open in 1952 at age 18, won an LPGA event at a younger age.
Before turning pro, Alcott won the Los Angeles Girls' title three times, the L.A. Women's Championship and the California Women's Amateur. In that tournament she once shot a 70 at Pebble Beach, breaking the long-standing women's course record of 72 held by Babe Zaharias. Her most important win before the Orange Blossom was the USGA Junior Championship, which she took two years ago at age 17.
Alcott was graduated from Pacific Palisades High School a year ago. "Boys were more or less in awe of me," she says. She is about 5'6" and 130 pounds, is brown-haired and freckled-faced, with strong arms and a powerful torso. Quick to smile off the course, she is all business on it. On the fairway with her regular caddie, Frank Chilton, she is completely absorbed in checking the card, calculating the distances, or selecting a club.
Alcott first became interested in golf watching it on television in the early 60s, and as a sub-teen began practicing in her Santa Monica backyard. A newspaper ad eventually led her to Walter Keller, a well-known Los Angeles golf teacher. At Keller's indoor golf studio she would hit into a net and study her swing in front of a mirror for four or five hours a day. Her father constructed a sand trap in the front yard and put up a net in the back. She practiced putting into soup cans at home and on the artificial greens in Keller's studio. By the time she got out on a municipal course at 14, she already was far beyond the beginner's stage.
From municipals Alcott moved up to the swank Riviera Country Club, which she now likes to play from the blue championship tees, a choice that takes the creases out of ordinary menfolks' trousers. Riviera has small greens and deep bunkers, which have sharpened her short game. She no longer tries to crush the ball, but averages 220 to 230 yards off the tee, seldom getting into serious trouble. Around the greens, she is an accurate chipper and a confident putter. "I've only been on the tour a short time," she says, "but I feel I'm as good as the rest of them."