By Rhonda Glenn
Thursday Night Lights
The Players Dinner at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club was one of the best ever, according to many. Maybe the best ever. It was the 50th anniversary salute to this championship and after a sentimental highlight video, eight past champions shared their memories. Those thoughts ranged from despair at the 9/11 championship when the players bravely voted to play on, to hilarity.
Diane Lang, a three-time champion, recalled facing four-time champion Carol Semple Thompson for the first time in Lang’s first final in 2005. “I knew that we had a lot in common,” Lang remembered. “For instance, between the two of us, Carol and I had played in 102 USGA championships. Carol had played in 101. I had played in one.”
Sherry Herman recalled that a portable toilet at The Homestead in 2009 saved her a couple of shots when her ball ricocheted off of it instead of going out of bounds in qualifying in that year that she won. Carolyn Creekmore, the 2004 champ, remembered that she never really had a chance to give anyone a shot-by-shot replay of her victory. It was all in great fun, but Edean Ihlanfeldt, the 1982 champion, was unmatched.
Ihlanfeldt flew in from Seattle to attend the 50th anniversary Players Dinner and flew home the following day. As the last speaker on the program, she regaled the crowd of more than 200 with tales of her life in golf. Many laughed so hard that they wiped away tears. “Wow,” said Pat Cornett, a competitor and the 2012 USA Curtis Cup captain. “I never knew that Edean was such a talent!”
It wasn’t just a women’s night. Many of the men leaving the dining room were heard to say it was the finest banquet they’d ever attended.
Name That Player
Lew Erickson, championship chairman and a member of the USGA Women’s Committee, and I were talking about the lack of nicknames among these players. We do have “Fitzie”, Nancy Fitzgerald, and “Creekie,” Carolyn Creekmore, but that’s about it.
In what I consider to be the glory days of women’s amateur golf, the 1930s through the early 1960s, nicknames were plentiful, pointed and colorful. “Duchess,” “Biddy,” “Dummy,” “Four-Eyes,” “Sparky,” and all of the Seven Dwarfs, from “Happy” to “Grumpy.”
“That group ran in packs,” said Erickson, who remembered when players caravanned from tournament to tournament in some 15-20 events a year. “They played together, ate together and stayed together.”
The players’ nicknames fit, too. Referring to the list above, in order they were Ihlanfeldt, Maureen Orcutt, Mary Ann Downey, Judy Bell, Betty Probasco, Judy Eller Street and Barbara McIntire. Of course, there were a few other nicknames that are unprintable on a family Web site, but we’ll keep those to ourselves.
Alice Lupton, the wife of The Honors founder, the late Jack Lupton, has reached a level of acceptance in golf that we could all stand to imitate. When speaking with a USGA committee member about the difficulty of 330-yard, ninth hole, a devilish little par-4, Mrs. Lupton said, “I finally made peace with number 9. I play it as a par 5.”