Jane Blalock cheating controversy
The Jane Blalock cheating controversy was a professional golf scandal that took place between 1972 and 1975. While Blalock was fined and suspended by the LPGA Tour executive board, a lawsuit she filed and won prevented those punishments from being enforced for the most part.
Jane Blalock was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 19, 1945. She began golfing at age 13, and won the New Hampshire Amateur five straight times beginning in 1965, plus the New England Amateur in 1968. Blalock attended Rollins College in Florida, graduating in 1967 with a degree in history. Prior to her playing the LPGA Tour, Blalock worked as a high school history teacher.
The first time Blalock played on the LPGA Tour was as an amateur at the 1964 Lady Carling Eastern Open. She finished T33. Between 1965 and 1968 Blalock played in four more LPGA Tour events, all as an amateur.
Early days on the LPGA Tour
Still an amateur, Blalock finished 5th at the 1969 Burdine's Invitational. This was the same tournament future World Golf Hall of Fame member JoAnne Carner won for her first ever LPGA Tour victory. Like Blalock, Carner was also an amateur at the time.
Blalock turned pro later in 1969 and went on to earn LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors. In 1970, Blalock notched her first professional victory at the Lady Carling Open. Blalock went on to win two more tournaments in 1971.
On April 16, 1972, Blalock won the inaugural version of the Dinah Shore Colgate Winner's Circle that would later become an LPGA major championship. One month after winning the Dinah Shore, Blalock won again on tour at the Suzuki Golf Internationale.
Suspension and lawsuit
The week following her Suzuki Golf Internationale win, Blalock played in the Bluegrass Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky. After she finished the second round, Blalock was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Tournament director Gene McAuliff said Blalock did not mark her ball properly on the 17th green and then failed to take a two-stroke penalty for the infraction as required.
Less than two weeks later, the LPGA executive board suspended Blalock for one year "for actions inconsistent with the code of ethics of the organization". The executive board claimed Blalock had been under suspicion for over a year, that she had moved her ball illegally on multiple occasions and that there were witnesses to these happenings, plus that Blalock had admitted to her guilt.
Blalock filed a lawsuit against the LPGA Tour. In the suit, Blalock's lawyers motioned the court asking that Blalock be allowed to continue playing while the suit was resolved. U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. granted the motion. Moye did however rule that any money Blalock earned while her case was being resolved would be placed in a court trust.
Twenty-seven LPGA Tour players signed a petition arguing that probation, a fine, and disqualification from the Louisville tournament were not enough punishment. Golfers stepped forward to say they had seen Blalock move her ball at golf tournaments prior to the Bluegrass Invitational.
Golf instructor Bob Toski, who coached Blalock, said "She has a compulsion to win. I think she needs psychiatric help." Toski also said Blalock had been given three warnings. LPGA Executive Director Bud Erickson asked Blalock to feign a back injury so to avoid bad publicity but she refused.
Fellow LPGA Tour golfer Sandra Palmer defended Blalock. In addition to saying she had never seen Blalock commit any rules violations, Palmer stated she didn't understand why the alleged infractions weren't reported at the time they happened and why other players signed Blalock's scorecards without reporting the incidents. Palmer also said, "If you see an infraction of the rules, you should point it out immediately. You don't wait until three years later to report something. Once you've signed that card, you're as guilty as the person who committed the violation." The LPGA executive board went on to warn Palmer concerning her statements. Palmer was also placed on probation for one year by the LPGA Tour and ordered not to make further statements of support for Jane Blalock.
Men's professional golfer Dave Hill, who himself filed an antitrust suit in 1971 against the PGA Tour, sent Blalock a note of encouragement. In his golf memoir Teed Off, published in 1977, Hill wrote that he didn't know how Blalock continued to play well under the pressure she was enduring. The fact that Blalock did play well made Hill think she was innocent unless she was a victim of some illness.
Blalock wins in court
Blalock went on to win two more times in 1972, at the Dallas Civitan Open and the Lady Errol Classic. She went winless in 1973, the only year between 1970 and 1980 in which she did not have a win.
In August 1974, a court ruled in favor of Blalock and awarded her $4,500 in damages. This was the amount of money Blalock was eligible to earn if she had won the one tournament she was forced to sit due out to her suspension. Those damages were subsequently tripled in March 1975, plus the LPGA was ordered to pay Blalock's legal fees which totaled $95,303.
Carol Mann became President of the LPGA in 1973. Not long afterwards, a search was begun for someone to become the Tour's first commissioner. On July 8, 1975, Ray Volpe was appointed LPGA Commissioner.
A month later, the LPGA Tour dropped its appeal and reached a settlement with Blalock
After the lawsuit
Blalock refused to condemn her critics, including her former mentor Bob Toski, after her lawsuit was settled. She said to a reporter in 1978 "I should not judge others as they have judged me. Life is too short and there is too much sadness. So I can't clutter my mind with all that other stuff. It makes it hard to concentrate." Ironically, Bob Toski left the Senior PGA Tour in 1986 after he became involved in a controversy over how he was marking his ball. Toski returned in April 1986 and played several more years on the Tour.
Blalock continued playing on the LPGA Tour through 1987. When she was through playing, Blalock had 27 Tour wins to her credit. She was the first female golfer to earn over $100,000 in four consecutive years and the seventh overall to reach the one million dollar mark in career earnings. Between 1969 and 1980, Blalock made the cut in 299 consecutive tournaments, an all-time LPGA Tour record.
In 1976, Blalock testified for the LPGA Tour in a suit against a sponsor trying to start a Women's Masters Tournament. Blalock wrote a column for the Miami Herald in 1981 complaining about the association's overuse of sex appeal in promoting the tour.
With 27 LPGA Tour wins, Blalock almost qualifies for the World Golf Hall of Fame under the standards in use as of 2011. However, she never won a major championship in her career nor was she ever LPGA Player of the Year or winner of the LPGA Vare Trophy. Blalock would have to be voted in by the Veterans Committee. At present, Blalock is tied with Lorena Ochoa for the most wins by a LPGA golfer who isn't in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Several golfers who primarily played the LPGA Tour, Judy Rankin, Donna Caponi, and Hollis Stacy who is to be inducted in 2012, have fewer career wins than Blalock but have been selected by the Veterans Committee. Blalock said in 2001 "It's almost a relief that I don't qualify. What if every year my name came up and every year I didn't make it? I'd be thinking, 'is what happened the reason?'"
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