Mary Enright, then a 20-year rising senior at UCLA, defeated future U.S. Women’s Open champion Lauri Merten, 3 and 1, to win the 1981 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Ore. Enright, a San Leandro, Calif., native, became the first UCLA golfer to win a USGA championship, a list that now includes Corey Pavin (1995 U.S. Open), Maria Jose Uribe (2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur), Kay Cockerill (1986,‘87 U.S. Women’s Amateur), Cindy Scholefield (1987 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur), Tiffany Joh (2006, ’08 WAPL) and Brianna Do (2011 WAPL). Enright turned pro in 1982 and played several years on mini-tours in Japan and on the LPGA Tour before a variety of injuries cut her career short. For the past seven years, Enright has been a teaching professional at the Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
It was one of the best things that could ever happen for me in sports. I do think about it a lot.
Lauri Merten, the 1981 runner-up, would become a U.S. Women’s Open champion 12 years later. Could you sense that when you played her?
She never hit it very far, but she hit it straight. She had a great short game. A nice girl. She always had a good game.
You played extremely well in the final, closing Merten out with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. Did it help to have a friend serving as your caddie?
The funny thing is my roommate in college, Marianne Huning, caddied for me. The day before she had been taken out [by Beth Sierra, who I beat in the semifinals]. I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll make up for it.” And I did.
What do you remember most about that championship?
There was a husband and wife with gray hair and they were realtors. When I would go to the range to hit some balls, I would see them there. I would say hello. And there was this big guy with a big hat. So, these three people followed me through every match that I played. I asked them why they chose me. They said the reason was I looked like one of their son’s old girlfriends.
What did you think of the course?
It was awesome. I just drove up there. We had just come out of [the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) championship] and I played well there. It was just that kind of place. It did remind me of [courses in Northern California].
What kind of course did you grow up playing?
Northern California was a good spot to grow up at that time. I played at Skywest, a public course in Hayward. We actually had three USGA champions who grew up at that course. I won the WAPL. Pat Hurst later won the U.S. Women’s Amateur [and U.S. Girls’ Junior] and Pilar Dorado won the Girls’ Junior.
As the WAPL champion back then, you got an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Open, which that summer was held at La Grange (Ill.) Country Club. What was that experience like?
I came from a real middle-class family and my mom said I would have to go out to Chicago on my own. She couldn’t afford to go. I asked her what I’m supposed to do. I wasn’t old enough to have a credit card. She said we’ll have to figure something out. I had to stay in private housing. I didn’t really know anyone. I knew [instructor] Jim Hardy, and [U.S. Women’s Open champions] Carol Mann and Donna Caponi. I came up taking a lot of lessons from Jim Hardy. He was my teacher for a long time. So, that was kind of fun and nerve-racking.
My caddie didn’t show up the first day, so I start to put my bag over my shoulder, and the USGA [official] on the tee box said you can’t carry [your own bag]. I asked him what I am supposed to do. He said you just better figure it out. So, I am looking around in the gallery and I see this man and ask, “Excuse me sir, would you like to carry my bag for me in the Open? I could really use your help.” So, now he’s inside the ropes at a USGA event. There were a lot of funny things from that week. It was a great golf course. I didn’t make the cut, but I came pretty close.
Do you still have reminders of your WAPL victory around?
I look at my [trophy] picture. Everyone comes to my house and says, “Oh my god, who is that?” That’s me. “That what you looked like [in 1981]?” I’m standing there holding that [trophy]. That trophy was heavy. I’m telling my friend Marianne, I hope I don’t drop this thing.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.