The annual retaliatory strike against uppity women was conducted successfully last week as the United States Golf Association held the U.S. Women's Open under conditions that made everyone play like Betty Crocker.
Each year the women participate in the Open as a sort of required midseason lesson in humility, but this time the instruction and penance were especially severe. The tournament was held near Philadelphia at the Rolling Green Golf Club on a course that had baked greens, spongy fairways and hills so steep they would have suited downhill racers.
Like periodic cries for tax reform, criticism of the Open course is to be expected. But this time even the players leading the tournament were protesting. The voices of dissent included the eventual winner, JoAnne Carner, though she was not nearly as annoyed as others because she plays a power game.
Carner's victory was as much a test of nerves as skill. She fired a sloshy round of 73 Sunday on a course inundated by rain to tie Sandra Palmer and then took the 18-hole playoff on Monday with a 76 to Palmer's 78. It was hard labor to win just $9,000—the weary golfers moving like jalopies over the final mile.
The crux of the problem was the greens. They were shrunken surfaces set atop high knolls and were so difficult to hit that at their approaches they could have used carnival barkers encouraging three tries for a dollar. In addition, they were baked hard, shaved close and moribund. "Look at this," Carner said with wide eyes Saturday evening as she surveyed the 18th green. "There's no grass." Playing on clay, the women double-faulted. Four-putt greens were common throughout the week, and there was even an occasional five-putt.
In the past few years the women have attacked the Open as one of the remaining citadels to be toppled in their crusade for recognition. The prize money totals only $60,000 (the USGA offers a $260,000 purse in the national men's championship). Furthermore, the courses on which the tournament is played are so difficult the women score abominably. "I want to win just because this tournament irritates me so much," Jane Blalock said before the event. "Sometimes I think they set up the course this way just to make us look bad."
Carner and Palmer were 8 over par at the end of 72 holes (in only two other tournaments this season has the winner played over-par golf). Even the figure 8 over was deceiving. Fifth-place finishers Amy Alcott and Sharon Miller shot 15 over. After the third round only Carner, Palmer and Blalock could look at the scoreboard and not grit their teeth.
Under fire all week were two of the par-3 holes (the 10th and 14th), where many players used drivers; the par-5 9th, which most found unreachable with three successive wood shots; the 13th, where on Saturday the golfers had to hit a wood approach to a pin set on the front edge of an elevated green; and the 16th, which had a putting surface that best could be described as alleged.
Only an occasional voice cautioned against the tide of complaints. "They want to determine the champion and you have to have it between these six inches," said Alcott, pointing to her head.
For a day and a half the Open belonged to Connie Chillemi, an 18-year-old who went out with the rising sun Thursday morning and shot a 69. The score disappointed her and amazed everyone else. "Should have been a 67," said the unabashed youngster from Orlando, Fla.