POTOMAC -- During most of his five years on the PGA Tour, Kenny Perry usually could be counted on to put three good rounds together in any given week.
Even though he made steady progress up the money list eac season, there were some collapses, and he vividly recalls having to get used to the crowds, being laughed at and being called gutless.
Laboring in obscurity, Perry, a native of Franklin, Ky., put u similar statistics each year, but the game around them began to get easier.
"My game just got better and better," he said yesterday after hi pro-am round preceding today's first round of the Kemper Open at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. "I had chances to win in the past, but it didn't happen. You learn from your mistakes."
That all changed two weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon i Dublin, Ohio. There, over the Muirfield Village Golf Club course, he wore down pursuer Corey Pavin, a two-time winner in 1991 and the year's top money-winner, then beat U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin on the first hole of their sudden-death playoff forhis first tour victory.
It was memorable for Perry, not only because it was his first tou victory, but also because "I grew up watching Jack Nicklaus win everything, so to win his Memorial tournament and have him present the trophy -- the feeling was indescribable."
Perry, who had a course-record 63 Friday and the lead Friday Saturday and Sunday, said: "Looking back, I was very focused, almost calm, very relaxed, with a lot of confidence," Perry said. "I handled the pressure, and it has changed my whole outlook. Now, there is no hurdle I can't get over."
It wasn't always that way for Perry, 30, who has a wife and thre children in Franklin.
It took him three tries to make it out of qualifying school, bu once he was on the tour, he was able to achieve goals he set each season.
"There was a top-125 finish [on the money list, making hi exempt for the next year], then looking for consistency and making a lot of cuts. This year, my goal was to win a tournament. Now, I'm thinking about winning another one."
This is Perry's fourth straight Kemper but his first as recognizable player. "Nobody bothered to ask me any questions those other years," he said.
* Jay Don Blake scored a hole-in-one at the third hole in the pro-am, as he did last year.
He used a 3-iron for the 201-yard hole, on which he used a 3-wood last year, when it was 238 yards.
"Shortening the hole has improved it," he said. "It's a fairer hol now. When the wind was blowing across 238 yards, it was really tough. It should help speed up play, too."
Greg Norman called the pro-am "just having fun an experimenting a little" after putting up a 10 on No. 10, a triple-bogey 6 on No. 11 and a back-nine 46 for an 82.
Joey Sindelar broke the course record with an 8-under-par 63 t lead the pros. Fred Funk of Laurel had six birdies on each nine and a65. Frederick native Donnie Hammond had a 74.
Blake and his four amateur partners combined for a 47 and six-stroke win in the team best-ball competition.
* MISCELLANEOUS: Barry Jaeckel, a late addition when Dan Halldorson withdrew, will become the only player to have played in all seven Kempers at Congressional Country Club (1980-86) and all five at Avenel (1987-91). . . . Mid-Atlantic-area pros in the field are Baltimorean Chris Peddicord; Mike McGinnis, Holly Hills; Bruce Lehnhard, Lake of the Woods; Bud Lintelman, Hidden Creek; Bob Boyd, Woodmont; Mike Barillo, Congressional; Mac Main Jr., Fauquier Springs; Dirk Schultz, Hagerstown; and amateurs Richard Colland, Columbia Country Club, and Tripp Shreves, Congressional.