There was a time, four or five years ago, when the new U.S. Women's Open champion was a pudgy, lay-around kind of teen-ager. Golf was something she used to do as a kid. Partying had become her thing. Not golf. Her name was Hollis Stacy, but her friends called her "Spacy."
Last week Hollis Stacy won the 25th Women's Open at the Hazeltine National Golf Club, the same Chaska, Minn. layout that was deemed both unplayable and unprintable back in 1970 when Tony Jacklin topped a blundering field to win the men's Open by seven shots. The 23-year-old Stacy won simply by doing what most of her older associates have never done in the Open: she showed respect for the golf course.
It wasn't until Sunday's final hole—the 72nd of the Open—that Stacy abandoned her conservative game plan, and by that time she could afford to be frivolous. She held a three-stroke lead over her closest challenger, Nancy Lopez, that other girl wonder, who was already in the clubhouse.
And so it was that Stacy, the girl from Savannah, finally did something she hadn't done all week. Hoping for a glorious finish for the folks back home—all nine sisters and brothers, her mother Tillie and her father Jack—to see on television, Stacy tried to make a birdie on the par-4 18th hole. Sure enough, the beastly Hazeltine beat her back, the same way it had routed her rivals in all four rounds, and she closed with a three-putt bogey, only her second of a round that otherwise consisted of pars.
Stacy led from the opening day, finishing with a four-over-par 292, two shots ahead of Lopez and three ahead of defending-champion JoAnne Carner, who alone carried the banner for the women pros you probably have heard of.
It may be true that Stacy came out of nowhere to win her first Open—and only the second tournament in her three-year pro career—but she was no stranger to winning golf. "I was a hotshot as a junior," she says, considerably understating the case. In fact, the USGA still cannot get over her feat of winning three straight U.S. Girls' Junior Championships, at 15, 16 and 17. Hollis, however, forgot all that real fast. "When I was 18, I really got into fiddling around," she says. "I completely lost interest in golf, and I guess all I could think about was going to college, getting married and having babies."
This was the same girl whose mother patiently taught her to "swing to the rhythm of The Blue Danube waltz"; the girl who made a pest of herself at the practice tees at the Masters every year while studying classic swingers like Julius Boros and Sam Snead; the girl who ran into the bushes and cried when Snead finally told her to "get lost." This was the diligent little golfer who used to get a big head after winning junior tournaments, until her mother would tell her, "Very nice, Shirley Temple of the Links. Now go clean your room."
By her second year at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., Stacy suddenly found herself 30 pounds overweight after trying to subsist mainly on a Budweiser diet. Then she traveled to the Soviet Union and "saw a lot of kids my age not doing what they wanted. They were just numbers. And here I was messin' around." When she returned to the states, she promptly quit school, drove home to Savannah and announced to Tillie and Jack that she was getting back into golf. "They couldn't believe it," she says. "They said, 'What happened to you over there?' "
Stacy joined the pro tour in 1974 and earned exactly $5,071.25, barely enough to make expenses. She made a total of $49,252 the last two seasons, but this year, helped by a victory in the Lady Tara Classic in Atlanta in May, she was 10th on the money list with $34,449 in pre-Open earnings.
Stacy was a model of steadiness at Hazeltine, working carefully for rounds of 70, 73, 75 and 74. She had vacationed the week before—"just laying back" around the pool at Sandra Palmer's condominium in Boca Raton, drinking Lite beer now and trying to calm her sometimes manic mental game with the help of Peter Kostis, her teacher. Stacy's only trouble came on Saturday, when she blew a two-stroke lead over Lopez with bogeys on two of the first four holes. Then the skies opened, stopping play for 3� hours. Hollis found a spot to lie down in the locker room and cooled her head, telling herself, "Just play the course, Hollis, just play the course." After the rain she cruised around the rest of the course in one over to take a one-stroke lead over Jan Stephenson—and two over Lopez—into Sunday's final round.