Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Las Cruces on par with Dallas

By Mary Armstrong / For the Sun-News
Posted: 04/29/2011 10:21:08 AM MDT

 

In 1964, the LPGA featured events titled Peach Blossom Invitational, Squirt Ladies’ Open Invitational (there’s an oxymoron for you), the Lady Carling Open, and Cosmopolitan Women’s Open. Of the 32 events that year, at least four were hosted by members of the tour and the tournaments bore their names. That year, the tournaments were played in places like Dallas, Santa Barbara, Baton Rouge and none other than Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The first annual Las Cruces Ladies Open (LCLO) was played from October 30th to November 1st, in that year. Thirty touring LPGA pros came to ‘Cruces to compete for the $8,500 purse and the $1,000 pro-am prelude. You could have seen all four days for six bucks and entered the pro-am for $25. And this wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill tournament either. Tournament Director Ernie Williams and the consortium of companies that comprise the sponsor Las Cruces Golf, Inc. attracted the major stars of the day.

Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie, Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs, Althea Gibson, Marlene Hagge, Betsy Rawls Clifford Ann Creed, Carol Mann, Marilyn Smith and Sandra Palmer were among the thirty “pro-ettes” as the Sun-News referred to the female contestants. The 54-hole tournament was played over the (at the time) 6,340-yard par 72 Las Cruces Country Club. There were many complements by the women for the course conditions and the greens were especially noted as being the smoothest they had played in sometime.

Sandra Haynie won the ’64 event with two under-par rounds followed by a third that featured her birdieing four of the last five holes including a six-foot putt on the 18th. Haynie was pressured by Betsy Rawls who started the final round four shots behind. Rawls picked up two shots on the front with a nifty 34, and then birdied 11 and 12 to pull even with Haynie. According to the Sun-News, the diminutive Haynie’s long, effortless drives and hot putter kicked in and she won going away by two stroke with her barrage of closing birdies.

The Sun News Sports page had at least one article on the tournament beginning the Monday before the tournament and following through (there was no Saturday edition in those days) to the concluding article in the Monday evening paper on November 2. There was no estimate of the gallery, but the scene described by then LCSN sports scribe Abe Perilman, leads one to believe it was a popular event. It was apparently so popular that tournament sponsor, Las Cruces Golf, Inc., was able to bump up the purse to $11,500 in 1965. This put the event above the average in tour purses that year.

Although I couldn’t find a specific article about Las Cruces Golf, Inc., there was an advertisement in the Sun News that year that detailed all the “Executives” and “Sponsors”. Among the “Executive” companies that are still in the area today were Alameda Laundry and Cleaners, American Linen Supply, Boney Moore Insurance Agency, Burn Construction Co., Carlos Blanco, Inc.,T.K. Campbell, China Temple Restaurant, Desert Motor Co., El Paso Electric, Emerick Home Builders, Farm Bureau Insurance Co., First National Bank, Ikards, Las Cruces Coca Cola Bottling, Co., Las Cruces Country Club, Mesilla Valley Chamber of Commerce, Pat Campbell Insurance Co., Pic Quik Stores, Ramada Inn, J.B. Ritter Distributing Co., Southwest Distributing Co.,

As the field of 29 pros and 3 amateurs prepared to tee off on Friday the 29th of October for the ’65 edition of the LCLO, the tone of the Sun News articles was just as exciting and interesting. Perhaps the most interesting was a lengthy article by Sun News writer Countess Jones. The nearly two full column story detailed life on tour, tidbits about various players and that of’ asked question – “Do blondes have more fun?”, which of course was becoming cliché due to the Clairol commercial.

Clifford Ann Creed, of Alexandria, Louisiana held on to win the ’65 tournament stumbling home with a triple bogey on 10 and a final 40 on the back nine for a 18 hole total of 76. The brunette turned blonde apparently had a strong lead on the field after two rounds. Donna Caponi, a rookie on tour in ’65, placed second, two shots behind Creed. Whitworth was third.

The ’66 LCLO seemed to get even more press, especially leading into the tournament. The Sunday paper preceding the tournament featured another well written article by Ms. Jones, which primed fans’ appetite for the coming “pro-ettes”. By now the Las Cruces Country Club’s fairways were lusher and the course played more difficult than in the first two years. LCCC pro Iverson Martin pronounced the conditions for the ’66 edition as “excellent”. After the first two rounds, Kathy Whitworth led the pack of 40 tour players in pursuit of the $11,500 purse. Fittingly, Whitworth came through in the final 18, shooting a final 74 for a 54-hole total of 214. The LCLO only lasted three years, but they must have been glorious years for the LPGA tour and for the City of Las Cruces.

Although I could not find a reason for the tournaments demise, it was interesting that Kathy Whitworth, formerly of Jal, New Mexico, moved to San Antonio, TX in 1965. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the Alamo Ladies Open was moved into the LCLO spot for 1967. And finally, I’m feeling rather fortunate now that I didn’t turn pro out of high school, as I don’t think the term pro-ette fits me well. The LCLO, like me, just faded off into the setting New Mexico sun.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: https://roadholeshorts17.wordpress.com/.

Advertisements

No comments yet»

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: