AND SANDRA POST MAKES THREE...
Along with skier Nancy Greene and swimmer Elaine Tanner, sensational new golfer Sandra Post is putting Canada back into the prestigious world of international sport
Sandra with golf-circuit roommate Renee Powell: “I am a confident person,, I believe in myself-an athlete has to if she is to survive”
ON JULY 3, AFTER two days of practice and with the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship tournament due to begin in earnest the following morning, Sandra Post sat curled up on the dun-colored bedspread provided by the ubiquitous Holiday Inns, half-listening to The Supremes mourn the passing of yesterday’s love, and apologizing for the hair rollers. “I don’t like any man to see me with my hair in pins,” she said. “For that matter, I don’t usually use rollers at all. But they like us to do our hair during a tournament, especially one that’s being televised. It looks better and, besides, a girl likes to look half-decent out there on the course. Doesn’t do me much good, though. My hair is so straight it’s pathetic, just pathetic.”
For the elite sorority of girls and women who actually play golf for a living, there are tyrannies beyond that of the pock-faced ball cradled with infuriating innocence in the barbered grass of fairway and green. The tournaments themselves are tough enough: three or four, perhaps even five or six, days of tromping around a golf course, knowing that an injudicious millisecond, or a resilient blade of grass, can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in prize money. In one of her rare moments of imagery Sandra Post, the 20-yearold golfing Wunderkind from Oakville, Ontario, who is Canada’s only professional woman golfer on tour, once said, “It’s a mountain out there, too, you know.”
But it isn’t enough for Sandra Post and the other girls on the women’s professional tour to be brilliant golfers; they have to be brilliant lady golfers as well. Consider the problem: you’re at the 12th and that damned ball rolls off the green into a sand trap, and you blast it out too hard so it sails over the pin and buries itself in another sand trap on the far side of the green, and you’re seven strokes over par and a double bogey here will probably cost you your chance at the title and at least $300 cash . . . and if you are a member of the Ladies’ Professional Golf Associa-
tion and you swear or curse, even just a wellmodulated Darnitalltoheli, up pops a sunbrowned imp called Lenny Wirtz to fine you $50 “for conduct unbecoming to a lady.”
The charge that women athletes are either not women, or at least not womanly, is tossed around in all sports. It has been heard with maddening frequency in the 20 years since the women’s professional golf tour began as a sort of peripatetic golf show in which essentially the same group of girls travel a 35-tournament circuit stretching from Florida north to Toronto and Calgary. As a reaction to these ungallant accusations, the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association has launched a determined miniskirted effort to glamorize girl golfers. “It’s hard on a girl, sometimes,” says Sandra. “It doesn’t matter how many rollers 1 use, my hair always comes down again at about the 10th hole. But the idea is to make the tour more feminine, more genteel. We’re fed up with complaints that women golfers are all Amazons.”
So swearing is definitely out, at the risk of $50 for the first curse, $100 for the second and so on up the escalator. For obvious reasons, the LPGA objects to its members being called “pro” golfers, and is trying to popularize the description “proettes,” an adjective that is not catching on for reasons that are, perhaps,
equally apparent. There are other little niceties that Wirtz, as the girls' tour director, is empowered to enforce. He fines girls for throwing their club down in a fit of what you'd call pique in a woman and healthy, and permissible, rage in a man. He also fines them for striking the ground with a club so hard that they break the turf. And it is deemed most unladylike for a lady golfer to actually toss her ball to the caddy — always a man — so that he can wipe it. ready for the next hole. Gary Player and George Knudson and the other men professionals do it all the time, just as they swear all the time. But let a woman do it . . . “Twentyfive-dollar fine, please,” says Wirtz. “Next time, hand him the ball.”
And so the night before the U.S. Women's Open was to begin, little Sandra Post, who is five-foot-four, 125 pounds and pretty, pugnacious and confident (“cocky” her manager calls it) and as concerned with finding Mr. Right as she is with becoming the world's greatest lady golfer, tied up her sun-bleached hair in green plastic rollers, chose a blue miniskirt for the morning and went to sleep dreaming about the treachery of that dogleg, par-five 12th hole and her boyfriend Dave, whose golf career has been interrupted by the U.S. Vietnam draft.
“Two, three years, that’s all I’m going to give it,” she had said. “Just long enough to find out how good 1 might have been. And then I’m going to get off it and get married. The boy it is now maybe won’t be the same one then — though the chances are he will be — but no amount of success or money will change the fact that in two or three years I’ll want to go. Money and success can do funny things to a person, but I’ll never change because I’m just not that type. I’m an ordinary sort of a person and I want an ordinary sort of life.”
And next morning, for the opening round of the tournament, she dabbed Chanel No. 5 behind each ear, squirted hairspray on the newly rolled curls and went out to demonstrate that she is not an / continued on page 65
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“I think I’m different—I go well under tension. I go good”
ordinary girl; that she is quite possibly one of the half-dozen best women golfers in the world and that her startling success in the previous five months, topped off by winning the LPGA's own championship in June, was not a fluke. Along with skier Nancy Greene and swimmer Elaine Tanner, farmer’s daughter Sandra Post is one of a trinity of girls who are putting Canada back into the prestigious business of international sport.
The 1968 U.S. Women's Open was played at Moselem Springs golf course, which sprawls up and down the slopes of a valley about 15 miles outside Reading, Pennsylvania. It's a scenic, rugged course, almost brutal for women more accustomed to less hilly courses of the southern states where most spring and early summer tournaments are played. The Moselem Springs ladies’ par is 71, which most competitors thought unreasonable. They said 73 would have been fair.
That morning of the first day Sandra and Renee Powell, the 22-yearold with whom she shares incredibly untidy motel rooms on the tour, stood side by side on the practice tee and for an hour swiped balls into the middle distance. Swishtliwack, swish-thwack, swish-thwack . . . there’s a rhythmic beauty in the sheer persistence of it; in the swirling arc of the club; the precision switch of weight from right leg to left leg at the point of impact. And there followed a half-hour’s putting on the practice green.
“I’m not very big, so I can’t use too much energy in practice.” said Sandra. “Putting practice is easy, so maybe that’s why putting is the best part of my game.” At least one expert has said she's probably tb« best putter in the world, men included.
‘It’s just great”
One hundred and one girls and women teed off in the tournament. About half were professionals, the rest amateurs. Since it was The Big Tournament it seemed likely a 20-year-old neophyte might be a little anxious. A little tense, perhaps? “No, never,” said Sandra. “I think I'm different to people who get worked up beforehand and go to pieces at the time. Me, I go well under tension. I go good. My nerves firm up and the adrenalin starts running and then, oh boy!, it gives you tremendous strength you wouldn’t normally have. It's just great.”
For the first two days Sandra played a threesome with Mrs. Althea Gibson Darben, who was the world's best women’s tennis player and is now a golf professional, and a 17-year-old amateur, Kaye Beard, from Kentucky. Mrs. Darben, a sinewy, Amazonian and thoroughly charming woman, had a seven-over-par round and seemed about to swear once or twice. “It’s tennis that ruined her golf,” explained Sandra. “Her right arm is too strong now.” Miss Beard, a little tremulous, went 15 over par. Sandra came in two over par at 73, which left her tied with three others for fifth place. As the bright new star on the tour, San-
dra drew a sizable gallery. It largely consisted of pneumatic businessmen of 35 or so — men to whom golf is a way of fending off their first coronary — and their no-cal wives who looked nubile from the rear and slightly raddled from the front. “Aren't American men fat" said Sandra that evening. "It’s nice to have a gallery,
though. It's fantastic what's happened to me in the five months since 1 came Out Here." All the girl golfers speak of the pro tour as Out Here. “Mostly, rookies don't make a cent for a couple of years, not even enough for expenses. But I've made . . . ooh. I’m not sure how much, over $10,000 anyway. It’s an awful lot ot money for-
doing what you want to do. but it isn't much when you think our top money winner is Kathy Whitworth with $20,000 or so this year and the top men have each made almost $130,000 already. What we need is more young blood at the top, more public excitement, more color. Women's golf is dominated by a few established faces."
It's fascinating, this amalgam of 20-year-old naïveté and the sort of confidence that begs to be called arro-
gance. “The worst part of my game? There really isn’t one,’’ she announced for the benefit of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation tape recorder. And then she insisted on hearing the playback, hugging herself with huge delight, criticizing her voice and delivery, chuckling at her own jokes. “If you get any good pictures, you send me one,” she instructed a photographer. “I just love pictures. One day I’m going to have one enlarged really enormous, just like those posters
of film stars and people.”
For the second-day’s round she wore green, her favorite color, in which she says she thinks she plays her best. When she began winning she also began acquiring sponsors. Spalding are only thinking of marketing a line of Sandra Post golf clubs, but DiFini Sportswear supply her with an unlimited wardrobe so that while she’d prefer to wear green more often she is almost obliged to wear a different mini-outfit each day, which
helps the femininity campaign but is hard on the superstitions.
At the end of the second day the lield was whittled down to the top 44 players. Sandra had said she was worried about not making this cutoff. In fact, with a second round of 76 she shared fourth place with five other players, all of whom had 36-hole totals of 149, seven over par. One of the girls with whom she was tied was Kathy Whitworth, the willowy, sinewy 28-year-old brunette from Texas who
was defeated by Sandra in an aim st unprecedented playoff duel for that LPGA championship. They had ended the tournament proper tied for first place.
Kathy Whitworth is also chairman of the association’s Orientation Committee, which explains to new girls on the tour just what “conduct becoming to a lady” really means.
“Sandra is an asset to the tour,” she says. “She has remarkable emotional maturity and control. But then she had had more tournament experience than most girls have had when they turn professional. For years she played all summer in Canada and the north, and then her parents could take her to Florida for the tournament play there in January and February. And then they were able to afford to send her on the amateur circuit in 1967, so that by the time she arrived Out Here as a professional she had got over the problem of tournament nerves. And, besides, as a rookie she’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain, which isn’t quite true of the more established girls.”
“I am a confident person,” said Sandra Post herself, later. “You have to be, Out Here. I think I inherit it from Dad. We believe in ourselves. It’s not conceit, it really isn’t, when an athlete believes in herself. If she didn’t she couldn’t survive.”
“My temper is very solid”
Other players on that second day had their confidence shattered. Beth Stone, a proette from Florida, putted so badly that she walked off the 18th green and dumped her $20 putter in the nearest Keep America Beautiful trash can. It was not, however, ruled to be behavior unbecoming a lady: she did it with grave dignity. Renee Powell, Sandra’s roommate, knew half way through the second round that she wouldn’t make the cutoff, so, having taken 49 strokes for nine holes, she pleaded sickness, withdrew and drove home to Ohio and her father’s golf course.
“The girls tend to be a bit more emotional, a bit more unpredictable, than the men,” Mr. Powell explained.
“My temper is very solid compared to some of the girls Out Here,” said Sandra. But with Renee gone, she added, “It can be very lonely. I phone my mom and dad in Oakville every day, and I write dozens and dozens and dozens of letters.” Pro golf — any sport, for that matter — demands awesome dedication. Sandra likes swimming and diving, but daren’t swim on tour. “It uses different muscles and could ruin my game.”
On the third day, Sandra played with Mickey Wright, the 33-year-old bespectacled Texan who may be the most consistently brilliant woman golfer in the world. “I’m delighted to have Sandra as a partner,” said Miss Wright. “She takes her work seriously and doesn't involve you in her emotions or play to the gallery.”
Sandra’s father, Clifford Post, had by now arrived from his prosperous market-garden farm on the outskirts of Oakville. "Sandra got the bug when she was six,” he said. “I took her to see the South Atlantic Ladies’ Open in Miami and she walked all 36 holes continued on page 68
with me. Back at the motel I caught her out hack swinging away at a ball with a stick. From then on she’s been a golfer. I taught her all I could, but she left me behind long since. Where other girls wanted to be nurses or film stars or air hostesses. Sandra always wanted to be a pro golfer. Fier idols were the girls she’s out there playing
with now, Barbara Romack, Marlene Stewart Streit, Mickey Wright.”
When their round ended, Mickey Wright said, “That girl is very mature and the control she has over her emotions is . . . well, remarkable. For instance, on the 12th hole, a par five, she hit the green with her second shot but the ball ran over the edge
into a trap. She came out of it too hard and it went right over the green into another trap. And then she chipped it out again and it landed on the lip of the hole, on the lip. mind you, not in it. And she showed no signs of disgust or displeasure. In fact, her expression didn’t even change.”
It is this awesome emotional con-
trol, along with the putting, that puts Sandra Post up among the champions. Her manager Michael Barber, editor of the magazine Golf Canada, took a photographer to the LPGA championship playoff between Sandra and Kathy Whitworth. He wanted a picture of her emotional reaction to her victory, or her defeat. “I told him to keep his camera on her for every second, especially on the 18th green when she’d sunk her last putt, so we'd be sure to get a shot of that tear as it trickled down her cheek. I figured she was 20 and she had just won her first tournament and a big one and that she would just have to have a little cry. And d’you know, there wasn’t even a glimmer of a moist eye. I told her afterward about the tear she didn’t shed and she just shrugged and went off on a date with a medical student.”
On Sunday, the last day of the 1968 U.S. Women’s Open, Sandra set out knowing she had no hope of catching the leaders, Suzie Maxwell Berning, Mickey Wright and Carol Mann, the six-foot-three professional who introduced miniskirts and colored stockings to the golf course. But there were other considerations among the proettes that day. A woman reporter had written that women golfers were “hefty, dowdy and dull.” Carol Mann, wearing black mini decorated with gaudy flowers, black mesh stockings and white shoes stalked into the barn used as a press tent and demanded, “Gentlemen, J would like to take a vote. Which of you — how many of you -— believe that 1 and the rest of the girls are hefty, dowdy and dull?” And not a man raised his hand. Grinning, triumphant and very feminine, Carol Mann left, wiggling her bottom.
Sandra Post was still out on the course, still playing for money, and in the end she placed 12th with several other girls and collected $540 in prize money. As she said, “It’s pretty good for a rookie. I’m quite pleased with the way I played.” Except for the wretched, treacherous 14th hole on the final round when she missed a foot-long putt. “I . . . missed ... a . • • foot . . . long . . . putt.” One gathers that if it weren’t the sort of conduct that is unbecoming in a lady, the otherwise imperturbable Miss Sandra Post might just have sworn, or cussed, or even tossed her ball cavalierly at the poor male caddy.
As it was, she said that “it was pathetic, just pathetic.” 'k