The first two acts of the Women's Amateur Championship last week were drawing-room comedy, the last was drama but the resolution was plain soap opera. In the end the deserving ingenue won the silver loving cup and dedicated it to her mother while the Other Woman went home to tend her garden and family.
In its early rounds a USGA tournament for women amateurs resembles a summertime house party. Most of the players have met and played each other before, some of them every year for decades. At midday in the dining room and at sunset on the terraces they mingle with club members and relatives, and if they have been around a while and know the right people they spend their nights as guests in the nearby homes of hospitable members. At least that is the way it is when the tournament is played at a venue like the Montclair Golf Club in New Jersey, which is old (1893), affluent and determinedly genteel.
While more than half the field of 149 was shooting 82s or worse and failing to qualify on the first day, or eliminating each other at match play over the next three, the club members continued to play the other 18 and the tennis players plonked from morning till night, and the children in the pool near the first tee did their best to swallow their squeals. Such galleries as there were made more noise slapping mosquitoes than applauding golf shots.
By Friday and the semifinals, the cast of characters was down to four—the clubwoman, the patrician, the coed and the working girl. Donna Horton, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who is small, blonde, unknown and says "yes, ma'am" a lot, was the surprise of the early rounds, mainly because she knocked off Jane Bastanchury Booth, one of the favorites and veteran of two Curtis Cup teams, 2 and 1. Donna had the misfortune to run into Anne Sander in the semis and lost 5 and 3, but said it didn't matter because "I'm just so happy to be here."
Anne Sander is a new name for a familiar face in golf. In 1958, when she was Anne Quast, a Stanford junior from Marysville, Wash., she won her first amateur; she followed that in 1961 with another as Anne Decker, and another in 1963 as Anne Welts. This summer, after a three-year layoff devoted to marrying Stephen Sander, a stockbroker, having a second child and tending her garden alongside the sixth fairway at Seattle's Broadmoor Golf Club, she was back at 35, determined to put Sander into the record books and playing some of the best golf of her life.
Her comeback began at the British Women's Amateur, where she was medalist by seven strokes. A few weeks later at the Women's Open in Rochester, N.Y., she finished fourth, her best placing ever against the pros. And she had been mopping up on the hilly 6,032-yard Montclair course, too, closing out each of her matches with at least three holes to go.
The other semifinal was match play at its best. Both players were virtually unknown outside regional events and each had improved her game impressively over the last year. Bonnie Lauer graduated in physical education from Michigan State in June, having won both the Intercollegiate and Mid-Western Collegiate for 1973 and having been the first woman athlete ever named MSU's Spartan of the Year. The Amateur was her last tournament on the summer circuit before taking a job in California to see what it is like to play the year round.
Carol Semple, her opponent, had reached the semis by beating, among others, Mary Budke, the defending champion. Carol, a tall, loose-jointed 24-year-old blonde with a big rhythmic swing, was born to amateur golf and the life that nurtures it. She was raised on the fairways of Pittsburgh's venerable Allegheny Country Club by a father who is a two-handicapper and vice-president of the USGA and a mother who has played in some 20 Women's Amateurs, despite never having gotten further than the quarterfinals. Her teacher from the time she took up the game at 12 until she was 20 was none other than Bobby Cruickshank, the little Scottish pro who tied Bobby Jones in the 1923 Open and lost in the playoff".
Carol fidgeted her way nervously through the front nine of the semis against Lauer, but even so was one up at the turn. Then Bonnie, who throughout the tournament looked as though she were actually enjoying the game, won three of the next four holes. After they had halved 14 and 15, Semple was two down with three to play. But at the 147-yard par-3 16th she laced an iron that landed nine feet from the pin and sank a birdie putt that whacked the back side of the cup. "That sparked me a little," she said. One down and two to go. When Bonnie left a chip short at 17, Carol won the hole with a par, closing her eyes tight while waiting for her turn to hit. "I try to picture each shot before I hit it and that's the only way I can concentrate." A well envisioned 60-foot chip that almost went in at 18 gave her a final birdie, her third straight hole, and the match.
The 36-hole final on Saturday was a genuine blow struck for old-fashioned excellence-for-its-own-sake amateurism, though you would not have known it by listening to the by now good-sized gallery. The clans had gathered—Semple's consisting of her father, flown in from a USGA function in Canada, her little sister Cherry, Bobby Cruickshank, aunts and uncles, most of the club people and, of course, the underdog rooters; and Sander's, made up of her husband and a few fans with historical perspective.
After the morning round Sander was one up but unsettled going to lunch, since she had lost the 18th with two shots into the rough and three putts. By the 6th hole in the afternoon, though, all that was forgotten. She had stretched her lead to three holes, and her smooth, economical and effortless-looking swing was working as it had throughout the tournament and the years. But at the par-3 7th, Semple narrowly missed a hole in one, and the whole day began to turn around. Of the next seven holes Sander was able to take only one. When at 15 she gambled on a five-wood out of a fairway bunker and lost, the match was even. At 17 she was bunkered again to go one down, Carol pairing the hole, and when she missed a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole, the Amateur title belonged to Carol Semple. Anne Sander gave her a hug. She remembered how nice it is to win.