Betsy King is too modest to admit it, but her chances of winning another Nabisco Dinah Shore golf tournament are beginning to look good.
Part of the reason is her four-stroke lead.
That’s a healthy lead for a golfer such as King, the player of the year who shot a two-under-par 70 at Mission Hills Country Club Friday for a 36-hole total of 139, five under.
The other part of the reason is the quality of the field chasing her.
Laurie Rinker, a two-time winner in eight years, is at 143 after her round of 73.
So is Rosie Jones, a four-time winner in eight years. She shot a 71.
Beth Daniel, who has already won twice this year, shot a 73 and is at 144, along with Margaret Ward, Lynn Adams, Cindy Rarick, Elaine Crosby and Cindy Hill.
Lenore Rittenhouse, the first-round leader at 67, shot a 78 and dropped back to 145.
So whatever happened to the well-known players in this field?
Defending champion Juli Inkster, a factor the first day, trails by six after a 75 left her at 145.
Amy Alcott, who has won this tournament twice, shot a 73 and is also at 145, along with Ayako Okamoto, who had a 72.
Pat Bradley is out of contention after a 73 left her at 147. Patty Sheehan is at 149 after a round of 73.
But the biggest shock of the first two days was the 80-73--153 posted by Nancy Lopez, who will be a spectator for the rest of this event.
Lopez, missing the cut for only the third time in 14 years--244 tournaments--still had a chance to make it going to the 18th hole, but hit two shots into the lake bordering the fairway.
“Oh, my poor Nancy,” said her father, Domingo Lopez, after she took an eight on her final hole. “She never plays like this. She tried hard to make it today, but that 80. . . . She hasn’t shot 80 since she was 9.”
Said his daughter: “It hasn’t been that long, but it was disappointing to play the way I did the first day. I really thought I still had a chance to make the cut if I played well today, and I was playing well until that last hole.”
This is the first time Lopez has missed the cut at a major tournament. She missed her first cut at the S&H; Golf Classic in 1982, then didn’t miss again until the Cellular Ping in Portland in 1988.
Lopez suspects that thyroid medicine had something to do with her poor first round.
“I was too impatient and getting mad every time I made bogey,” she said. “That’s not like me. I can accept bogeys, but I let it get to me the first day. I decided to play without my medication today, and I felt a lot better. At least I did until I put that first ball into the lake.”
Although most of the top players are out of contention, King isn’t the type of player to take anything for granted. For seven years, she wondered if she would ever win a tournament.
“Those were frustrating years,” she said. “But I never stopped believing that I had some ability. I finally found a teacher (Ed Oldfield) who changed my mechanics and made me a better player.”
That happened in 1980 and King said it is no coincidence that her career took off shortly thereafter.
She didn’t win her first tournament until 1984, but she has won every year since, and her 20 victories include two major championships.
“I would never have dreamed about the Hall of Fame during my first seven years,” she said. “But now it’s something that I do think about.”
To qualify, a player must win 40 tournaments, or 35 tournaments plus one major, or 30 tournaments plus two majors.
“It’s getting too difficult to do that now,” King said. “That was fine for players 30 years ago, but it’s not going to happen very often anymore.”
King could get to within nine victories of the Hall of Fame this weekend.
“I’m hitting the ball well,” she said. “I didn’t hit it as well as I did the first day, but it was still a solid round.”
Four other U.S. Open champions missed the cut of 151--Hollis Stacy, Kathy Guadagnino, Jerilyn Britz and Liselotte Neumann. . . . Former Dinah Shore winners who missed the cut are Nancy Lopez, Alice Miller, Kathy Whitworth and Jo Anne Prentice. . . . Vicki Goetze, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, also missed the cut.