HERSHEY, Pa. -- A month ago, last-minute entry Sandra Palmer won the first Centel Senior Challenge, a 36-hole tournament for LPGA members who are 50 or older.
"I had reservations about that but decided it would be fun, and I could be a part of history playing with some of the legends of our game," Palmer, 50, said at the time.
"I had a little fire; it was nice to be in contention."
Palmer, who has a U.S. Open title among 21 wins over 28 years, had that fire turned up yesterday, as she shot 36-3167 and wound up with a share of the first-round lead in the 17th annual Lady Keystone Open at Hershey Country Club's West Course.
Janet Anderson, whose 1982 U.S. Open victory is her only win in 14 LPGA seasons, came out of the next-to-last pairing on the golf course to shoot 34-3367 and tie for the lead.
Despite ideal weather conditions -- warm and no wind -- there were only six other scores in the 60s. There were, however, 21 others under par-72 for the 6,348-yard, tree-lined layout.
Among the four at 68 was Beth Daniel, who will defend her LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club in two weeks while Anderson and Missie Berteotti (69), still missing despite a "can't miss" label, cited a comfort zone with the return to their native state.
Former Keystone winners Pat Bradley and Juli Inkster, included with the pre-tournament choices, were among six at 70, and Senior Challenge players Kathy Whitworth and Sandra Spuzich were in a crowd at 71.
Baltimorean Tina Barrett was two different players. She had a double bogey at the first hole in a first-nine 41, then charged home with a 34 that included three successive birdies. It was the day's best turnaround.
Palmer, who hasn't won since 1986, also had the fire going last week, as she had her best finish of the season, a tie for 24th at the Atlantic City Classic. Before that, she had made five cuts (a best of tied for 52nd) and missed four. She had had only one other round in the 60s this year, a 68 in her second event.
Anderson has been in a similar pattern, having made six cuts and missed seven. Until two weeks ago, she had a stroke average of 75, then emerged with a tie for 26th at Rochester and a tie for 24th at Atlantic City. Among her 36 rounds before FTC yesterday, she had a low round of 69, but there were also three 78s and an 84.
Palmer began with nine successive pars yesterday, then produced five birdies on the back nine, all on putts inside seven feet.
"Even parring around, this course is not boring. I hit almost every club in my bag," she said. "My heart was racing those last two holes [pars]. Now, I have to find a way to settle myself down for the next day."
Palmer was the only one in the 144-player field without a bogey, and Anderson was the only one to get to 6-under, which she did with a birdie at No. 6 (her 15th), but she fell back into the tie at the ninth, where she hit over the green, chipped back and missed a five-foot putt.
It was one of the few strokes she missed on the firm and fast surfaces. She had an eagle-3 at the 451-yard 16th from 16 feet and birdies from 25 and 35 feet.
"After withdrawing last week, I came in feeling as though my swing wasn't very good. Suddenly, it came back today, and I was glad to see it. It was the best I've hit the ball in a long time.
"There's one thing I'm going to continue -- staying focused in my routine and swing thoughts. My game is coming back to being very good. I'm thinking positive."
NOTES: Both Palmer (back spasms) and Anderson (hyperextended left elbow) credited the sports medicine van with helping get them to the first tee. . . . Former Gaithersburg resident Michelle Mackall, now living in Orlando, Fla., shot 79 and withdrew. . . . Daniel had seven birdies in shooting 68, and defending champion Cathy Gerring had seven birdies in shooting 71. . . . Laura Baugh, another name from the past, had three twos in shooting 72. . . . One of the more interesting rounds belonged to Mary Ann Klinchock, who had four birdies in getting home with an 82.