flopped down on the locker-room couch and tore into the day's mail.
"How do you
like this!" she exploded. After a pause the taciturn Georgian, not usually
given to emotion, went on, "Here's a guy in California who has a bet with a
friend. The friend thinks Babe, Patty and I have it all arranged in advance who
is going to win our tournaments. He's betting we don't."
will you tell the man?" asked Betsy Rawls.
him?" Louise said. "I'll ask him if he's ever seen three cats fighting
over a plate of fish."
The allusion to
the cats may be somewhat inelegant, but the meaning is clear. Women's
professional golf is competitive. Two dozen women golf professionals currently
play for about 30 tournament titles a year and some $200,000 in annual prize
money. All essentially are just career girls who commute to work over
considerably greater distances than other commuters on the Long Island Rail
Road or the Wilshire Boulevard bus. But the rigors and complaints on the tour
are frequent. The malcontents (invariably those who are playing poorly at the
moment) insist the distances between tournaments are too great, the social
requirements harassing, the laundry problem overwhelming, the greens bumpy, the
caddies untrained, the neighborhood dogs noisy, the steaks tough and the
sponsors too demanding.
In the past two
years the scoring pace has quickened significantly. In 1954 the top 10 players
averaged 76.87 strokes each tournament round. In 1956, aware they must earn
$8,000 in prize money to pay expenses, they have improved almost a full
This year the
tournament winner has been forced to total 293 for 72 holes, one and one-half
strokes better than that shot by the titleholders of 1954, the first year any
appreciable number of 72-hole events was played by the LPGA. But everything in
women's golf is getting bigger. The tournaments are more frequent, the purses
plumper and the field larger. The day when a competitor could afford the luxury
of an instant of carelessness or something less than her best effort is gone
But the girls
seem to like it that way. Ask any of the presumably overworked, taut-nerved
tournament professionals who have ever punched a time clock how the tour
compares with working for a living back home, and they'll tell you they'll take
a tour, any time.
There are nine
players now following 1956's tournament trail who have the ability and the
experience, singly or in combination, to play critical shots well, often and
usually on demand. These are the finished golfers, the recent tournament
winners and runners-up and the leading money earners. They are Marlene Bauer,
Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Fay Crocker, Betsy Rawls, Betty
Jameson, Mary Lena Faulk and Beverly Hanson.
publicity space is often disproportionate to players' skills. So the sports fan
unfamiliar with golf may be confused as to who is the greatest of women
golfers. The women professionals are not confused. The majority of them are
certain she is Patricia Jane Berg.