There Were 18 Reasons Why Nanci Beat Nancy


Stop me if you’ve heard this:

There’s this internationally famed, brilliant golfer who has won 47 women’s tournaments, not counting those abroad, and she has piled up $4,083,921 in prize money over the years.

There’s this other golfer no one ever heard of who has never won a tour tournament and has earned $140,266 in her career.

Guess who won the Nabisco Dinah Shore, first “major” of the women’s tour Sunday?

Need you ask?

It wasn’t Nancy Lopez, the party of the first part. It was another Nanci, the one who spells her name with an i .

Greatly to her surprise--to say nothing of everyone else’s--Nanci Bowen won the first regular tournament of her life Sunday and beat back the other Nancy and the female John Daly, Laura Davies, in the process.


People who follow golf shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, Fleck beat Hogan, didn’t he? Golf journeymen regularly chip in over Greg Norman’s head in majors when he’s standing there over a winning putt.

Golf, like life, isn’t fair. It’s downright sociopathic, if you want to know the truth.

If you could script a sporting event, Dempsey would never lose, Ruth would never strike out, Nolan Ryan would never walk anybody, and the deserving, those who have, so to say, paid their dues would carry the day.

Forget it. The house (read, course ) won again.

Women golfers will remember the 18th hole of the Dinah at Mission Hills the way sailors remember the Bermuda Triangle, or the way the Titanic’s captain will remember the iceberg or General Custer, Little Big Horn.

It does what finishing holes always do. It is the Enforcer, the contract killer of the golf course. When you get through with all those nice little 350 and 379 little par-fours out there you come up to this little hall of horror overconfident.

It is a 526-yard Mission Impossible, which is to golf what Gestapo headquarters was to citizens of Berlin. A place you step with dread.

The story of the 24th Dinah Shore was the bellicosity of the 18th hole. It just lays there in wait like a paid assassin. It has water on the left, an Amazon forest on the right. It has an island green surrounded by a lake so inviting winners dive into it after the round. Balls dive into it during the round. Ask Lopez.


The 1995 Dinah Shore started out as a three-way playoff (in the minds of the golf experts in the press tent and club grill) among the upstart Tammie Green, who led by two as the final round started, and the registered giants of the women’s game, Lopez and Davies.

Playing in front of them in comparative obscurity was one Nanci Bowen. She had shot a nice 215 to there, four shots behind Green, two behind Lopez and one behind Davies.

Nobody paid any attention to her, probably including herself. She bogeyed the first hole, then steadied down to a couple of early birdies and a nice steady run of pars. She was at two-under while Lopez moved to five-under and Green to three- under.

Then Lopez began having terrible trouble with lag putts. She would have a putt for a birdie, then hit it seven feet past the hole. Then miss the comebacker. Green was not faring much better.

When Bowen birdied the 17th hole, she was suddenly in the lead. The Who’s Who of the world were suddenly overtaken by the Who-in-the-world-is-that?

She found it uneasy at the top. She blocked out her tee shot on 18, fearing the water on the left, and hit it into the squirrels on the right. She then hit a tree with her second shot and got about 10 feet out of that. She next hit a three-iron on the fairway, hit her fourth shot on the island green and two-putted for a bogey six.


But No. 18 was only warming up. It saved its Sunday punches for Lopez and Green.

Lopez knew she needed a birdie to tie Bowen. So did Green.

Lopez hit her tee shot in the woods, hit her second shot out in position about 175 yards from the hole. She took a four-iron. “I felt in total control,” she said later. “I felt I could do what I had to do--hit it close and make the putt.”

She hit it in the water. She had reckoned without the malevolence of No. 18. She had to go back behind the water and hit a fifth shot. She did get it close and made the putt--but it was a six and no threat to the leader.

Meanwhile, back on the fairway, Green’s search for a birdie was more elusive. She hit a poor drive, then knocked a four-wood into a fairway trap. She tried to get out with an eight-iron--and slammed it into the lip.

You could almost hear No. 18 chuckling, “Heh-heh,” and twirling his mustache and leering. Didn’t these women know who they were dealing with?

They sure did by the time they putted out. Lopez made her six but Green made seven. Davies had a monster putt to force a tie, but No. 18 was not about to let that happen. It stopped her first putt so far short of the hole, she ended up three-putting.

So, Nanci Bowen, whoever she is, wound up winning the tournament. Figures.

She’s a nice enough woman, but she was as anonymous as a forecaddy out there when this tournament started. She’s out of Georgia and got her experience on the Futures (mini-) tour after she lost her playing card for non-performance. You might say she “inherited” this championship. After all, when it takes her closest two competitors an aggregate of 13 blows to finish the last hole, you have to think somebody’s looking out for you.


And, anyway, just think, she’s only 46 victories behind the other Nancy.