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Last Mickey Wright Invitational at San Luis Rey Golf Club ended in playoff

The San Luis Rey Downs golf course came to an end – at least for the time being – with its closure in August 2014. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour once included the Mickey Wright Invitational, which itself ceased after the 1969 tournament and which was last played at the San Luis Rey Golf Club course in 1967.

The future of the San Luis Rey Downs golf course is unknown. The final Mickey Wright Invitational at San Luis Rey had a slight extension when a tie after 54 holes caused a playoff for the championship.

The Mickey Wright Invitational was played at the La Jolla Country Club in 1963 before being hosted by what was then called the San Luis Rey Golf Club from 1964 through 1967. Marlene Hagge won the 1964 tournament with a 72-hole score of 287. Kathy Whitworth set a tournament record by winning the 1965 Mickey Wright Invitational in 283 strokes. Wright won her own tournament for the fourth time in 1966 by completing the four rounds in 289 strokes.

The final Mickey Wright Invitational at the San Luis Rey Golf Club was a 54-hole tournament played Sept. 22-24, 1967, on a par-71 course. It drew 49 LPGA professionals, including one who withdrew prior to the tournament due to a sore neck. The total purse was $11,500.

The LPGA professionals included Hagge, Whitworth, and Wright. Ruth Jessen, who represented the San Luis Rey course on the LPGA tour and taught golf at the Bonsall course when she wasn't traveling, was also in the 1967 tournament.

The field also included the first two blacks on the LPGA tour. Althea Gibson was the first African-American to play on the

women's tennis tour, and in 1963 she became the first black to join the LPGA. She had competed in the 1964 and 1965 tournaments at San Luis Rey, and after her marriage, Althea Gibson Darben returned to Bonsall for the 1967 Mickey Wright Invitational. Renee Powell, the second black golfer on the LPGA tour, turned professional in 1967.

The pro-amateur prelude consisted of 36 holes Sept. 22. Darben was paired with Paul Atherton, Judy Atherton, and Paul Eckert. Powell was paired with W.C. Hrastich, K. Stewart Peters, and Mrs. K. Stewart Peters. Another former tennis notable was also part of the pro-am; La Mesa native Paulette Verzin had been a top youth tennis player and was partnered with pro JoAnn Prentice. One of the county's top youth golfers, Fallbrook's Bill Teasdall, had Beth Stone as his pro partner.

The first round of the professional tournament took place Sept. 22. Whitworth and Pam Barnett each had scores of 32 strokes on their first nine holes; Whitworth completed the round in 68 strokes to lead after 18 holes while Barnett was second at 69 shots. Sandra Palmer had a score of 70 to sit third after the first round.

Jessen and Carol Mann each took 33 shots on their first nine holes before taking 38 shots to finish the round and shared fourth place with scores of 71. Wright shot a 72 to share fifth with Sandra Haynie; Wright's 34 was the best score for a golfer's second nine holes.

Darben was one of seven players with a score of 73 who shared seventh place; she took 35 strokes for her first nine and 38 on her second nine. Hagge was in a two-way tie for 18th after a score of 75. The five-way tie for 20th at 76 included Powell.

Clifford Ann Creed was one of the players who shot a 73 on the first day. Creed took 67 strokes Sept. 23 for the low round, and she also moved into first place. Creed birdied five holes and bogeyed one.

Whitworth shot a 73, putting her in second with 141, while Haynie's 70 gave her 142 and third place. Barnett's score of 75 gave her 144 for two days and a share of fifth place with Susie Maxwell. Wright's 73 put her in a three-way tie for seventh at 145 while Jessen's 75 gave her a three-way share of tenth at 146

Darben's 75 gave her a 36-hole score of 148 to share 16th with Sybil Griffin. A second 76 gave Powell a score of 152 which shared 21st place with Hagge, who had a 77-stroke round, and two other golfers.

The amateur phase was won by Dot Howe, Ted Vallas, and Stan Carroll, who had a best ball score of 110.

Whitworth and Creed began the third day two over par at 37 for the first nine holes. Creed hit two traps on her final nine holes and settled for a 73 for the day and a third-place 213 for the tournament which earned her $1,135. Whitworth had three putts for birdies and one bogey, closing with a 71 for the round to give her 212 strokes.

Haynie shot 35 for her first nine holes, birdied the 11th hole, bogeyed the 13th hole, and made a 25-foot putt to birdie the 18th hole for a 70 and a 54-hole total of 212 and a tie with Whitworth.

Wright had a 72 to share sixth with Barnett at 217 and take home $580. Jessen's 74 gave her a score of 220, sharing 11th with Marilynn Smith and Carol Mann and earning her $303. Darben's 74 gave her a score of 222, which shared 15th with Gerda Whalen and was worth $212 of earnings.

A 71 on the final day gave Hagge a score of 223 and tied her for 17th with Donna Caponi and Prentice; each of those golfers earned $165. Powell's score of 79 on the final day gave her a 54-hole total of 231, which placed her 33rd and thus not among the top 25 finishers who earned money.

Haynie, who lived in Fort Worth, then birdied the extra-hole playoff while Whitworth shot par on the playoff hole. Haynie took home $1,725. Whitworth collected $1,363.

Tournament director Fred Sherman was the head pro at both the San Luis Rey Golf Club and the Fallbrook Golf Club during his 63-year career as a San Diego County golf instructor. The Mickey Wright Invitational was moved to the Fallbrook Golf Club for 1968 and concluded its existence in 1969 at the Lake San Marcos Country Club.

 

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