Sharpsburg, Ga – Canongate Country Club has brought countless hours or enjoyment, exercise and competition to Coweta County since it opened in 1965.
Now a 36-hole facility, it was originally designed by architects Dick Wilson and Joe Lee as an 18-hole championship course that got immediate attention from the pro circuits.
The Atlanta Open came calling in 1966 and the Georgia State Open in 1967. But the major leagues showed up in 1968, when the LPGA brought the Lady Carling Open to Sharpsburg.
Once announced, the Lady Carling Open was declared to be the greatest ladies event ever held in Atlanta, but as time neared and entries were processed, it was upgraded to one of the most talented events for the whole 1968 season. At the time, around 25 pros registered to compete in a LPGA event, but the number for the Lady Carling Open ballooned to 46. Unfortunately, the best player in the world, Mickey Wright, withdrew the Monday before with an eye infection, but the field was strong nonetheless.
The ladies arrived on Wednesday to find an immaculate course and weather conditions to match. Betsy Rawls, who finished her career with eight major championships, declared the course “one of the very best we will play all year.” Based on the practice rounds, there was a sense that low scores were going to be prevalent.
The pro-am on Thursday confirmed that as the team, led by World Golf Hall-of-Famer Patty Berg, fired a 16-under 56 for the win on the 6,800-yard championship layout. Canongate President Bill Roquemore and Newnan native Pic Parks finished one shot off the lead that day for second.
Friday brought great weather and the anticipated low scoring. Berg created the first buzz of the day when she fired a three-under 69, at the time believed to be the first sub-70 shot by someone 50 years or older. Other low numbers came from Jan Ferraris, the 1966 Rookie of the Year, with a 67 and Sharron Moran at 68. But the star of the day was Carol Mann. The 6-foot-3 Mann scorched the field with a course record 66 and never looked back.
Mann grew up learning the game in Chicago and burst onto the scene in the 1960s. Her height and strong fashion sense were popular with the galleries, and she used her stature to elevate the LPGA to a higher level.
She served as the LPGA’s president from September 1973 to May 31, 1976, and was instrumental in hiring marketing guru Ray Volpe as its commissioner. Mann retired at age 40 and had equal success outside of the game, where she served as president of the Women’s World Sport Foundation and founded the first woman-owned golf design and management firm, Carol Mann Golf Services.
But all of that would have to wait, because on this weekend in 1968, all her focus was in Sharpsburg, Georgia.
She matched her Friday round on Saturday with another 66 and stepped on the course Sunday morning with a 10-shot lead. The only question left was to see if could she set the LPGA scoring record. In front of a gallery of 3,000 patrons, it all came down to a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole.
With her knees knocking, she firmly struck the putt, only to see it roll 18 inches past the cup, where she settled for a par, the Lady Carling Open Championship and a tie for the all-time LPGA scoring record. She left Coweta County that day with a $2,250 winning check on the way to Raleigh, North Carolina for the next tour stop.
But what makes the day even more memorable was that Ms. Mann was not the only record setter. On the final day, teenager Sandra Post from Oakville, Ontario, also gave Coweta County a claim of LPGA history when she shot a 29 on the back-nine of the course. Until then, no LPGA player had eclipsed a 30 for nine-holes.
Post, who is a teaching pro now in Bolton, Ontario, still remembers that day well, which ended up with a cruel twist of fate.
On the 16th hole, Post noticed that her caddy had placed the palms of both his hands on the green, which was a violation with a two-stroke penalty. Although no one other than Post noticed, she called the penalty on herself, which changed her 29 to a 31.
“Back then, we were just given a caddy when we got to the tournament; they were just local guys,” she recalled. “He was a good guy and felt bad; it’s just unfortunate.”
Post continued, “But what makes it even more interesting, is that I learned later that season that since I had not communicated with him (her caddy), I shouldn’t have administered the penalty at all.”
Post would go on to win the 1968 LPGA U.S. Open and is in the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame today. When asked what she did with her $630 of winnings from that day, she quipped, “I guarantee you I spent it!”
Reflecting back, it is surreal to think of the number of LPGA Hall-of-Famers that were at Canongate Country Club that weekend and the stories that were created, many of which are still relevant today.
Memories that have endured a lifetime surrounding our community and beyond.
Rob Grubbs is a lifetime Georgia resident who enjoys listening to memories and telling the stories they leave behind