The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on May 10, 1980 · 24
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · 24

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Saturday, May 10, 1980
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4-C The Atlanta Journal WEEKEND The Atlanta Constitution May 10, 1980 Powell Has Overcome Problems To Play LPGA Tour By Glem Sbeele y ComtauiiM Staff WrHtr Renee Powell is the finest black player on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. Unfortunately, she's also the worst It's easily explained because Renee Powell, a 13-year tour veteran, is the only black woman playing the LPGA tour and only the second ever, the first being former international tennis star Althea Gibson from 1963-77. You must know then that it was not difficult finding her whereabouts on the golf course during the Lady Michelob tournament at Brookfield West "Have you seen Renee Powell come through here?" an observer asked a marshal! "What was she wearing?" "Well. I don't know, but she's black and about 5-5." "Oh, yes, she teed off about 30 minutes ago." Renee Powell is used to being on the golf course and being about as common as a 350-yard par five. The situation exists, of course, beauase golf has always been the upper middle class sport Only recently, with the development of inner city programs in some areas, have blacks been given much exposure to it But around the Brookfield West clubhouse, as Renee Powell always notices, the only other blacks were either spectators, caddies or clubhouse employees. "It is sort of different," she said after opening with a 76 Friday. "It's very different But the only time I feel conspicuous is when I start gaining weight I'm conspicuous then because I blow up like a blimp." It's interesting to note that the only black woman on the tour is only there because she grew up totally surrounded by the sport Her father, William, is a club pro in Canton, Ohio. Certainly, there were social problems with tournament play which she wishes to forget and does not reveal, but hers was not the typical black social situation. "Golf was completely a way of life for me," she said. "It was the natural thing to do. In my family one was supposed to play golf. Obviously, I wouldn't have played if my parents hadn't been involved in it That's why there are so few blacks playing. It's not something you can do in a year. Blacks aren't involved in it, even like they are in tennis now, because it's not a part of their whole social involvement" It has not been easy for Powell, who turned 34 Sunday, yet the difficulty has not been a result of certain clubhouses being off limits, as they were to Gibson in the 1960's. Having just withstood a divorce and major surgery, she is only now getting back to the tour with regularity. She has been a spot player since 1977 and went 11 months without playing during her marital turbulence. Asked how a professional golfer can block out such anguish when involved in a sport which demands so much concen- -- " Renee Powell: 'Coif Has Been A Complete Way Of Life' Staff PIMM - Jo Mntm tration, she said, "One doesn't It destroyed a lot" From a success standpoint, the Renee Powells are more the norm than the exception on the tour. Most of the women are merely struggling to break even, matching travel expenses ("I'd say about $800 a week") with prize money. While Powell's statistics would probably be more impressive had she started playing in recent seasons with the larger purses and had she devoted more time to the tour, her earnings have been nothing on which to live. Her career earnings are a mere $37,060 and her best finish in 13 years has been a fourth in the 1972 Lady Errol Classic. Her biggest payday last year came after a tie for 34th in the Patty Berg Classic. Fortunately, she has both a sponsor "who is a friend who wants to do it and doesn't miss the money" and other involvements. She has designed sportswear and done television commentary for both ABC and CBS. "I really haven't been that totally devoted to my golf game," she said. "I think I would look at things totally different bad I been out here 13 years and played regularly and not won. I think I would have to definitely reassess things." Of the most recent years, she said, "I like to wipe them completely out of my life." Smilarly, she would like to forget there were ever "un--pleasantries, ' as she called them, in the late 60 s. One can assume what type of unpleasantries they were, because she said, -"I know when Althea was out here they were places where she ' couldn't go into the locker room. "But in recent years I haven't had any problems. They're ; really things I'd rather not get into. They're sort of boring for' me to discuss and they're sort of disgusting to remember. It " was disgusting that so-called educated people would act like ', that" The only incident she dicussed involved her desire to play . in the Ohio State Golf Association tournament when she was at , Ohio State. The school backed her saying it would pull out of the organization if she was not allowed to compete. There has never been any such problem on the LPGA tour, . Powell said, "because our organization has always been strong enough so that wouldn't happen." Former LPGA great Betsy Rawls, a past president of the LPGA and now its tournament director, said that when Gibson came on the tour the LPGA immediately made known its desires to prevent discrimination. " "I can remember sitting down and discussing it when Althea came out on the tour," Rawls said. "We knew what we had . to face and we said we would never play in a tournament where Althea was not allowed in the clubhouse." Throughout her years on the tour Powell has developed -Z strong relationships with some of the sports world's most splendid black athletes. She visited often with Joe Louis and was "a-' good friend" of the late Jesse Owens. "They knew what I had gone through because they had..' gone through it, too," Renee said. It was Owens, she said, who convinced here to rejoin the. tour after her personal problems. . : "I ran into Jesse on a plane leaving Canton and I was on my way back to England (where she and here ex-husband. : lived)," Powell said. "We had a long discussion about it and he . sort of initiated my coming back. If there was one person I v idolized, it was Jesse Owens." As she undoubtedly had told Owens at one time and was , telling a listener Friday, "I know there were amateur tournaments I couldn't have played in because I was black, like the-Trans Mississippi and the Western Amateur. They just had old . attitudes." Ironically, just after a black waiter had come over to request an autograph, she said, "I figure that was their problem,' not mine." LPGA Continued From Page 1-C "It was either that or have an operation," Higgins said, "and the doctors told me if I had an operation, I couldn't play for a year. At this stage of my career, I didn't want to take a year off." Higgins doesn't say she's back all the way, as her 60th place on the money list (37,115) will attest And she wasn't even concerned with how she stood on the leader board during the first round. "I'm just taking it one day at a time," she said, "and I wasn't sure how I was doing with the field today. I figured it must have been pretty good when I saw some reporters and cameramen coming out to see me at 18. "But, I never look at the leaderboard. When I do, I lose my concentration. About the only time I want to know how I stand in the tournament is on Sunday so I'll know whether to charge a putt or play it safe." Higgins has been on the tour since 1971 and has only two victories. Her best year was in 1978 when she won $36,600. , "I've never been a big winner, but I feel that I can be," she said. "And now that I'm over my elbow problems, I hope there are better days ahead. I don't look to win right off, and I don't worry about getting into my old swing, which caused my problems in the first place, When I do that now, the pain is there to remind me." Ahern, Floyd and Alcott are sure to keep Higgins' mind on her business, too. Ahern, who opened with a 72 in last year's Lady Michelob, then shot 80 in the next round, admits it can happen again, too. "I'm just not very good at handling pressure," she said. "I guess I choke a lot Last week I shot 69 on Saturday, then had 82 on Sunday. It just happens sometimes." Ahern had eight birdies and three bogeys Friday and said she was rather lackadaisical Tm just not very good at handling pressure. I guess I cboke a lot. Last week I shot 69 on Saturday, then had 82 on Sunday. It just happens sometimes.' Kathy Ahern day. "I've been on the tour 13 years," said the 31-year old Dallas resident, "and sometimes I get kinda spacey. Today was one of those days. I really didn't know how I was doing until I bogeyed 14 and looked on the leader board. I was surprised I was doing so well. If Floyd can find a way to play the front, nine the way she played the back, she can make this year's Lady Michelob her first tour victory. The 22-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C., shot a dull 37, then turned it on for a 6-under 31 on the back side. It was the third straight week she had a 31 on her last nine holes, and, if a four-footer had dropped at 13, she would be tied for the lead. "I had a chance to birdie every hole on the back side except No. 11," she said. "I missed the green there, but when you take only 12 putts on nine holes, you know your putter is as hot as a firecracker." Floyd looked anything but a contender when she went 2-over-par after five holes with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 5, but she birdied No. 8, then turned it on the final nine holes with birdies at 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. While some of the lesser-known players were stealing the day, the big names, except for Alcott, were in the pits. Defending champion Sandra Post shot 77; last week's Women's International winner, Hollis Stacy, let the slow play get to her and came in at 78; and JoAnne Carner never got started after an 8 on the second hole and is in danger of missing the cut with an 80. The field will be reduced to the low 70 and ties after 36 holes. A ; 4 7 thought I bad a name to live up to, but then I realized you can't put women against men in any sport.' Marlene Floyd Floyd Losing 'Sister9 Tag Staff PIMM - jm BotMh Marlene Floyd Cets Help From Big Brother By Benjy Anderson Journal Staff Writer For her first few years on the LPGA tour, Marlene Floyd was mainly known as Raymond Floyd's good-looking sister. But if the transplanted North Carolinian continues to shoot 68s as she did Friday in the first round of the Lady Michelob, people may soon start referring to Raymond as Marlene's brother. While she credits Raymond for much of the improvement in her game, she admits that, yes, it did at one time rankle her to be recognized largely as Raymond's sister. "It did bother me," the Palm Springs, Calif., resident said after her hot round Friday, "because I let it bother me. I thought I had a name to live up to, but then I realized you can't put women against men in any sport. "I also started doing some TV (golf teiecasts), and people started recognizing me for that Now I love it when people know I'm Raymond's sister." Marlene joined the tour "by accident," as she put it, in 1976. She was working as an airline stewardess when the union went on strike, and Raymond's (that name again) agent, Mark McCormack, approached her about trying the tour. "He said he could get me some publicity deals on the side," she recalled, "and I thought that'd be terrific." A five-handicap player at the time, she conceded she was "lucky" to make it through the tour's qualifying school. She received a year's leave of absence from the airline to try and qualify. Floyd struggled in her first year, never finishing higher than 17th and ending the year 66th on the money list But she was encouraged enough to decide to stay on the tour. . She has shown fairly steady improvement since that 1976 rookie season. But she really started coming on last year, finishing third three times and ranking 24th on the money list. . Floyd has continued her steady if not spectacular play this year with two seventh-place finishes and only one missed cut in 12 tournaments. But her 31 Friday on Brookfield West's back nine was little short of spectacular as she had a legitimate chance at a birdie on every hole except for the par-3 11th. "I hope I get stuck on that," she said of the 31, her third in recent weeks. She isn't ready to predict her first tour victory, but she obviously is pleased with her first-round position of only a stroke behind leader Pam Higgins. And she said she feels good about the rest of the week. ' "I enjoy this golf course very much," she said. "It's hilly, but I seem to play well on hilly courses. I finished third at Wheeling last year, and that course must have been built for mountain goats. "Plus, I enjoy playing in the South. I have more friends here, and I get a little more pumped up playing in front of them." Floyd also thinks she may have learned a lesson from three weeks ago when she led the Lady Citrus after one day but finished in a tie for 25th. "I tried not to get excited in Orlando (where the tournament was played)," she said, "and I realized later what I had done given up. I downplayed it too much. "If I start to get nervous here, I'll just let myself get nervous. I think it turns me on a little." She believes she's f close to being a top player," and she credits Jim Hardy as well as Raymond for that. "I talk to Ray about every 10 days," she said, "and he's helped me a lot with my attitude and my attitude toward putting. Many times I used to change my mind about the breaks on putts, but he taught me to pick a line and stay with it." ' She certainly wouldn't mind staying with 31s for nine holes. NOTES - University of Georgia golfer Mitzi Edge ended the day as low amateur with a 74 that included a 35 on the front side . . . Debbie Raso was penalized four strokes after she realized she had 15 clubs in her bag, one over the limit She shot an 82 with the penaltv. atson Leads Nelson Classic Scores, Page 2 C By United Press International DALLAS Tom Watson, seeking his third straight tour victory and fifth this year, holed a 130-yard shot for an eagle Friday en route to a 6-under-par 64 and a two-shot lead in the opening round of the rain-delayed Byron Nelson Golf Classic. ' Watson, two-time defending Nelson champion, began play on the back nine of the Preston Trail Golf Club course on a mild, sunny afternoon and after seven holes of play he was 2-under-par. Then, at the par-4 17th, his eighth hole, Watson lofted his second shot over a creek in front of the green and watched as the ball skipped three feet past the pin and drew back into the cup; "Anytime you make an eagle it takes the pressure off you for the rest of the round," said Watson. "An eagle is like a gift. It's like someone comes up and gives you two shots." .. Tied for second at 4-under 66 after the opening round were George Cadle, who has played for eight years on the tour without remarkable success, and Curtis .Strange, winner of last week's Houston Open. The group at 3-under 67 included Mike Brannan, Ron Streck, George Burns and Australian Bob Shearer, who put together his best round of the year over the 6,993-yard Preston Trail course. Jack Nicklaus, without a PGA tour triumph for almost two years, was 2-under at one point in his round but finally had to settle for an even-par 70 while Lee Trevino, runner-up at the last two tour stops, was at 72. Watson came into the tournament having already won $246,000 this year. A third straight win in the Nelson would not only put him over the $300,-000 mark but would push him toward a goal that barely eluded him a year ago becoming the first person ever to win $500,000 in one year on the tour. , "I turned a 69 into a 64 with that eagle and a couple of long putts," said Watson. "I was hitting the ball fairly well, but I think it was obvious my short game is in good shape. "Actually, I didn't have a good lie when I hit the (eagle) shot at the 17th. It was on bare dirt and I had about 130 yards to go into the wind. So I hit about a three-quarters eight iron and it covered the pin all the way." In addition to the eagle Watson made a 65-foot putt at the par-3 fourth hole and a 30-footer at the par-4 12th. f- V rffA Associated Press PheN Tom Watson Going After Third Straight Win nasty woras Stop Tests y: With Mikes I . . -1 . From Press Dispatches . t DALLAS Golfs great experiment :& apparently over - victim of two many iD-; chosen words. PGA commissioner Deane Beman said--Friday the use of microphones to record player comments was a worthwhile idea, but ; that the concept was being abandoned pending -further evaluation. The use of microphones on the tour r-, cently brought about two controversial incidents at the Heritage Classic and the Tourna'-" ment of Champions. While standing on a teebox at the .-; Heritage, Tom Kite, wearing a microphone, - told a nationwide television audience ne t thought John Schroeder playing in a three-;; some just ahead should be fined for slow' play. Kite was unaware his comments were being monitored. At the Tournament of Champions, even---tual winner Tom Watson gave Lee Trevino a bit of advice during their round. The tip was picked up by a live microphone positioned alongside a tee. Z A viewer, after hearing the incident, tele- phoned PGA officials and told them Watson ' had broken a rule by giving advice during 'X play. The viewer was correct, and Watson was assessed a two-stroke penalty. N Beman, in a statement released during '' the Byron Nelson Golf Classic, indicated the four-tournament experiment with live microphones had ended.

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