As the midsummer sun begins to bleach the greens and scorch the rough, golf's swinging chicks come from all over the country to compete in the annual U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. Last year they played at the camellia-scented Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra, Calif., where the photographs on the following pages were taken. Next week the young ladies will decorate the fairways of the Flint Golf Club in Flint, Mich.—exulting over a holed putt, bending backward to get that extra yard out of a drive or fretting over how to get out of a bunker.
Momentarily airborne, Elizabeth (Doll) Story, last year's winner, registers delight as she sinks a putt in her final match. Still eligible at 17, Miss Story will be back to defend her title.
Watching the girls play golf is not necessarily good for your own game. Some of them bend too much, others not enough, but no matter. There are compensating factors. Chris Browning, who lost out in the qualifying round, won admirers with her long blonde hair. Marsha Houghton (above) and Nancy Hager did better, reaching the second and third rounds respectively.
The junior girls may not be playing for a $30,000 first prize, but their intensity is great. Peggy Harmon puts body English on a putt while Jill Paskal keeps the ball sharply in focus at the top of her backswing. Marianne Cox (top) and JoAnn Washam have both hit and now watch the results. Kaye Beard (below) is in a fix. Having driven her ball beneath the branches of a tree, she now must figure out how she is going to get it out.
Pig-tailed Karolyn Kay Kertzman pauses to check scorecard. Her first-round-loss was easier to take when her opponent reached finals.
Some Dig Physics, Others Divots
In 1950 when Babe Didrikson Zaharias won the U.S. Women's Open, Mary Kathryn Wright (who became much better known as Mickey) was runner-up in the second U.S. Girls' Junior Championship and Elizabeth (Doll) Story wasn't born. Nor, quite obviously, were the 134 young ladies who, along with Miss Story, the defending champion, will take part next week in the 20th junior championship. It is, after all, for girls 17 years old and under.
And these kids are no slouches, in spite of the slouchy hats they favor. For example, drives of 225 yards are not unusual. This feat would probably impress them more if they only realized that before the Babe began belting them out there, the best of the women golfers did well to hit a ball 200 yards off the tee.
The tournament's first winner was 15-year-old Marlene Bauer, who still holds the record as the youngest champion. Miss Bauer later became renowned on the pro tour, as have many of the girls who played in the Juniors. Indeed, a roll call of the tournament's medalists and finalists over the years reads like the entry list for last month's Women's Open: Mickey Wright, Anne Quast, Barbara Romack, Ruth Jessen, Clifford Ann Creed, Peggy Conley, Mary Lou Daniel, Gail Sykes, Beth Stone, Kathy Ahern and Mary Alice Sawyer.
Last year the Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra, near Los Angeles, was host to the Juniors. Built in 1920, it is one of the older courses in California, and you couldn't ask for a more Elysian setting for girl watching. It is nestled in a valley of avocado and orange groves and is further distinguished by rugged hills and canyons. However, its scenic beauty was lost on many of the girls, who found the barrancas and narrow fairways bordered with carob and eucalyptus more forbidding than picturesque. In fact, all four favorites were eliminated before they reached the semifinal round, and, curiously, not a single girl of the advanced age of 17 reached the semifinals.
Next week the tournament will be held at the Flint Golf Club in Flint, Mich., which, if less exotic, is also less ominous. Among the entries are 43 repeaters from 1967, including the four semifinalists. The favorite has to be Doll Story of Oriskany, N.Y., fresh from "her first big grown-up victory," as her father puts it. Her short game and putting won the New York state women's title last month. "If Jack Nicklaus had been putting like she did last year," says Frank Hannigan, the assistant director of the USGA, who was at La Habra, "he would have won the '68 Open easily."
Nearly a fourth of the girls playing in the Juniors (that is, those who have a five handicap or better) will go on to the U.S. Women's Amateur in Birmingham, Mich. the following week, and some of them will also compete in the Womens' Trans-Mississippi and the Western Juniors.
But not all the girls who play on the summer circuit are as addicted to golf as their skill and schedule would suggest. The great majority of them intend to go to college (most have grades averaging in the 90s). Even Doll is rather lukewarm about turning pro. "I don't think it's any kind of a life," she says firmly. Kaye Beard, who at 15 was the Kentucky state women's champion and will be participating in the Juniors for the fifth time, wholeheartedly agrees. "It's too much golf," she says. "Entirely too much." And Liana Zambresky, a finalist last year, is of the opinion that there are other more worthwhile pursuits. "I enjoy nuclear physics more than golf," says Liana—and she means it.
However, there are those, like Karolyn Kay Kertzman (left), who are sold on the game. Karolyn's got it all figured out: college in San Diego, a pro career and a golf shop of her own in San-tee, Calif., her home town. Her ultimate goal is preeminently clear if perhaps a touch immodest: "I aim for the top," says Karolyn Kay. "I'd like to play a little better than Mickey Wright."
WALTER IOOSS JR.