Bertolaccini had arrived at Mission Hills fresh from a month of hard work on her game in Florida. Nancy arrived after a honeymoon on Kauai in Hawaii, where it rained steadily, followed by two weeks of hitting balls off rubber mats at an indoor-outdoor driving range in Hershey, where she and her husband Tim live for the time being. "You hit balls out into the snow and there are little heaters over your head," Nancy said, somewhat hopelessly.
Lopez suffers from a strange malady that causes her upper arms to stiffen painfully when she is inactive. Originally, only her right arm was afflicted, and the condition was diagnosed as strained muscles. Now the stiffness is in her left arm, too, and though Nancy is looking for a new explanation, she claims that so far it has not affected her play.
She had planned to fly to Los Angeles on Wednesday to see a specialist but, like everyone else, she became snowbound, of all things, in the desert. With the airport closed, the roads impassable, the pro-am canceled and the golf course unplayable, the 16 qualifiers paced and fretted in their hotel in Palm Springs.
Donna Caponi Young worked out in the hotel's health club. JoAnne and Don Carner played crazy eights. Bradley, a New England skier who has given up the sport at the urging of her father ("My dad always says, 'Remember what happened to Jim Lonborg. He went skiing and hurt his knee and he was never the same again' "), gazed at the towering, snow-covered San Jacinto Mountains longingly. And somebody else built a snowman in front of the hotel and put a golf capon his head.
"We were all like caged lions." said Carner.
By Thursday rain had washed the snow away, and the Mission Hills course was in surprisingly good condition. Some of the contestants were not. Carner hadn't played in a tour event since September. Bradley had a jammed thumb that has been bothering her off and on for three years. And Dot Germain hadn't played match play for nine or 10 years, she guessed. Germain has been on the tour for five years, three of them full-time. Though she has improved steadily and had her best year in 1978, earning $33,590, Germain has yet to win a tour championship.
Nevertheless, Germain, four other non-winners and Mary Mills, who has not won a tour event in five years, all qualified for the Triple Crown field, but Hollis Stacy, winner of the U.S. Open the past two years and fifth on the 1978 money list, did not. Qualification is based only on points earned in Colgate's three other events—the Dinah Shore in March, the European Open in England in August and the Far East Open in Kuala Lumpur in November—and Stacy finished 17th and fifth in the first two, then chose to pass up the trip to the Far East.
Perhaps the Colgate system contains a subtle commercial logic not visible to the naked eye, but it is artistically lacking. Any tournament that produces a match as good as Lopez vs. Bertolaccini, or a match player as good as Carner, deserves a long and prosperous life, but a tournament that excludes a player like Hollis Stacy seems deliberately to be getting in the way of its own success.