"We were so excited about the idea of her being in the championship that we didn't notice any problems," says Robichaux, who lives in suburban Chicago. "Ann was the type we needed to break that barrier. She was outgoing, told jokes and was compassionate and encouraging to the other golfers. They immediately liked her. Joe Dey, the executive director of the USGA, did everything he could to see that her participation was pleasant."
The Associated Press noted the historic day: "A starting field of 105 players, including the first Negro in its history, was paired Saturday for match play in the 56th USGA Women's Amateur...."
But there was no escape from prejudice. Gregory's first opponent, Carolyn Cudone, a Curtis Cup player from West Caldwell, N.J., recalled a parking attendant telling her father, "Your daughter better win today, or you'd better not come back to this parking lot."
"Every reporter in Indianapolis was there," recalls Cudone. "You couldn't stir them with a stick! She must have been nervous as a wet hen, because as we left the tee, she said if she didn't count her strokes right, it wasn't on purpose."
Cudone had her hands full. Making several escapes from bunkers, Gregory gained a 2-up lead, then began to drive wildly. Her lead collapsed, and she narrowly lost the landmark match, 2 and 1.
"My husband said I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell," Gregory confided as she shook Cudone's hand. "I guess I fooled him."
In 1957 Gregory returned to the Women's Amateur and advanced to the third round without incident. Subsequent appearances didn't go so smoothly.
When she arrived at the 1959 championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., trouble was brewing. A UGA event was under way in Washington, D.C., and black members were angry that Gregory had chosen instead to play in a white tournament. And Congressional simply didn't want her. In a flare-up of prejudice, the club barred her from the traditional players' dinner on the eve of the championship. Dey broke the news.
"I told Joe Dey it was no big deal," Gregory said. "I said, 'I realize the money I paid to enter the tournament didn't buy stock in the clubhouse. I'll eat me a hamburger and be just as happy as a lark, waiting on tee number 1.' I didn't feel bad. I didn't. I just wanted to play golf. They were letting me play golf. So I got me a hamburger and went to bed."
One of Gregory's best performances in national competition followed. In the second round she faced the Georgia state champion, Mrs. Curtis Jordan.