"I don't know for sure if I would have had the drive to last this long, or if I would have done as well if I wasn't married," said the revered Judy Rankin, who joined the tour 16 years ago at age 17.
The tour's second all-time leading money-winner stood at a hotel desk, waiting for a clerk to locate her reservation. She held a white paper bag.
"Please," she urged the clerk. "My Whopper is getting cold."
It has been suggested that instead of earnings, success on the tour should be measured by the number of greasy hamburgers consumed. Fast food is big on the tour, and Rankin figures herself to be among the leading consumers. Her husband, Yippy, and son, Tuey, often travel with her, and occasionally what's quick and easy is preferable to what's glamorous and expensive.
Traveling husbands are a rarity on the tour. Don (husband of JoAnne) Carner and Bill (husband of Kathy) Cornelius join Rankin to form what Rankin calls The Big Three. They are regulars, making most of the tournaments. Laura Baugh's boyfriend, Wayne Dent, has also been "on tour" for about a year. Baugh is the only one of the so-called young golfers to have a male companion travel with her regularly.
Other husbands and boyfriends will turn up occasionally but are usually bound to a home base by their own business obligations.
Yippy Rankin, his wife says, got so tired of questions that he told one writer he was a gigolo.
"I think he's been criticized a little," said Rankin. He is in the insurance business and is his own boss.
"Most of all, it's just hectic. My son is in the fourth grade now, and he's getting into sports. We have many different arrangements. My stepsister and her husband have stayed with him so he can finish up his Little League season.
"I don't know how it (their marriage) works. It doesn't just happen. We've both worked pretty hard at it. Even my 10-year-old gives up some stuff. I think probably the good marriages are the ones where the people care more for the other guy. I think I'm fairly able to give. I won't let little things cause problems."
Rankin was on the tour of six years before she won her first tournament. That was in the 1968 Corpus Christi Civitan, eight months after she had given birth to her son.
"Marriage settled me, made me happy," said Rankin. "I grew up out there on the tour. It was my life. I'm not so emotionally attached now. I have a different life. The tour is second. I wouldn't do it for a minute if it wasn't profitable."
In her first full year on the tour, Rankin won $2,539. In those days, she remembered. "We were like sharecroppers and you never heard a complaint. We stuck together because things weren't perfect. I miss that attitude.
"Money has severed some relationships. There is not the closeness there used to be.
"The tour, I think, is a little crazy, and you have to keep things in perspective. You can end up a nut. Or you can say to yourself, "I've gotten to do a lot more things than a lot of other people.'"
Rankin was asked if she ever felt guilty about the way she has raised her son.
"I have, sometimes," she said. "But when I am home, he's with me 24 hours a day. I think I spend more time with him than some mothers who do nothing. I think we're closer."
A strange noise rang through the woods from the mouth of 39-year-old veteral JoAnne Carner. She was calling turkeys.
A few feet away inside a 31-foot trailer, husband Don was cooking his specialty, chicken and dumplings. The trailer is home year round. Inside it are three television sets, two trail bikes, a tuxedo, four evening gowns, fishing poles and golf clubs. But no children.
"If you're going to play the tour and raise a family, forget it," said Carner. "If I had a child, I would stay home and take care of it."
So, in 1970, the Carners made a boggling decision. After years of marriage and five victories in the U.S. Amateur, Carner would turn pro. It was also a decision to disrupt Don's real estate and electronics businesses, to move permanently into a home on wheels, and a decision to forego having children of their own. (Don has two by a previous marriage.)
"I'd just about won everything. I had run out of goals," said Carner in her warm, easy voice."More than anything, Don has had to make sacrifices. He's always been his own boss. Our agreement was that if he didn't like it, I'd quit.
"We decided on the trailer because we knew moteling it would kill both of us. One motel looks just like another, except maybe one has more cockroaches. It's a very lonely life. But the food is what gets to you.
"One thing we've always done is eat well. Don is the best cook. When I go home, we're in the woods. We put out our picnic bench, build a fire, start up the charcoal grill, ride all kinds of trails, feed the chipmunks and call turkeys. Our particular life style on the tour is a more normal one."
The Carners have seen all styles. JoAnne remembers a young golfer, "I won't mention her name, because it might embarrass her," she said, "who came up to Don and just started crying. 'I'm just so lonely," she told him.
"She was afraid to call anyone to go to dinner or the movies. Don told her she was just young, hadn't broken her family ties yet, and to be patient. He also went and talked to six of the girls and told them she was lonesome, and that she was afraid no one liked her. They found her and invited her places. She's in seventh heaven now.
"They look out for one another. Everyone, with the exception of a few, gets along with everyone else. I would say all of them are happy. They're doing what they really love.
"Golf is a funny sport because you really have to eat, sleep and drink it. So much of it is thinking. What really drives you crazy is that you have to eat with them, drink with them, and you end up talking golf 24 hours a day. I can go feed the chipmunks."
The tour life, said Carner, "spoils you."
Carner once worked for an insurance company. "I hated it," she said. "I didn't know how to use the calculators. I had trouble typing. And they were promoting me too fast."
Carner tells a chilling tale of her late hibiscus, the beutiful plant Don gave her for her birthday.It received love and care and was even taken to a baby-sitter during one tournament.
"I tried to raise it," said Carner. "But I overwatered it. It got bounced around in the trailer. I finally had to throw it out last week."