JoAnne seemed to have no shot at all, not even a lefthanded stab. She mulled the matter for a minute or two, then turned her back to the hole and played a carom shot off the trunk of the palm. "I had to hit the shot fat to get the ball up." she said. "Otherwise it would have come straight back and hit the club face a second time. I asked the head pro to watch to see if it came back, and to call the penalty if it did."
Miraculously, the shot worked, as the ball struck the trunk in the desired spot and ricocheted toward the pin. But Carner missed her putt, settled for a bogey and lost the hole to Bradley's par 5.
For Carner, it was only a momentary lapse. She continued to apply pressure on the back nine, and closed out the match 4 and 3 when Bradley conceded her two-foot putt for a par on the 15th.
When a reporter asked Bradley what had gone wrong, she opened her blue eyes wide and said, "I didn't hit it well, sir. I really gassed it bad."
Nothing in golf is more fun to watch than a good match. A tournament such as the Triple Crown produces dogfights and cliff-hangers in a profusion that makes the average stroke-play tournament seem like an exhibition. But match play is the unloved stepchild of professional golf because of the kind of thing that happened in the first round at Mission Hills. With the fond hopes of the promoters, the sponsors, the media and most of the spectators riding on her, Nancy Lopez, the greatest attraction women's golf has produced since Babe Zaharias, dropped her first match to Bertolaccini on the second extra hole and was, for purposes of publicity and promotion, lost for the week.
In a normal tournament Lopez' three-under-par 69 would have put her only a stroke or two behind the leaders, and seasoned observers would have been remarking sagely that she was in good position to win. But this was match play, and Nancy dropped into the consolation flight.
The Bertolaccini-Lopez match was possibly the best of the tournament. Bertolaccini, now starting her fifth year on the tour, has improved gradually since arriving from Argentina in 1975. She knew she would have to play near-perfect golf in order to have a chance against Lopez—and she did just that. On the first nine holes Lopez had four birdies. Bertolaccini three. Neither was ever more than one-up at any point in the match. They made the turn even, and the match was still square at the par-3 17th. Then Bertolaccini three-putted from 30 feet to lose the hole to Nancy's par. Silvia's bright hopes dimmed abruptly; Lopez needed only to halve the par-5 18th to win.
But Bertolaccini squared the match at the 18th by hitting a wedge shot over a small lake to within six inches of the pin. Lopez conceded the birdie putt, giving Silvia a 68 for the round, and they moved on to extra holes. They halved the 19th in pars, but then Silvia won with a birdie putt from 12 feet at the 20th.
"It was a fun match," said Lopez. "I was proud to be part of it."
As the entire Western world and Japan must know by now, Nancy Lopez of Roswell, N. Mex. became, as of Jan. 6, Nancy Lopez Melton of Hershey, Pa. She would be Nancy Lopez Melton on the tour if she had her way. Instead, the companies to which she is under contract insist that she remain Nancy Lopez to the consuming public.