Leona Grap will find herself in an unusual situation this week. She is the only woman in a 17-person group -- all from the Baltimore area -- going off to play in a golf tournament. And, if she plays to her handicap, she probably has a better chance of winning something than most of the men.
That is the beauty of the Du Pont World Amateur Handicap Championship, a tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., which has grown from 680 players in 1984 to the record 3,354 who will begin the 72-hole grind tomorrow.
Golfers representing 47 states and the District of Columbia, plus 16 foreign countries, have registered for the event, which will use 50 courses along the Grand Strand coastal area of North and South Carolina. "The word is definitely out about our tournament and the fun, intense competition, and excellent prizes it offers," said Bob LeComte, programs director for the title sponsor.
Grap has been playing golf for about four years and carries one of the highest handicaps in the field, 40. "This is her first trip, but I went last year, and some in our group have been three or four times," husband Edward Grap said. The Lansdowne couple plays regularly in separate groups at Carroll Park.
"Last year, there were 140 players in my flight and I was 63rd. This year, there are 105. I have a handicap of 18, but have been playing every day and shooting in the low 80s," added Grap, semi-retired from the freight business.
He also may be something of a medical marvel to be able to swing a club. "Let's see, two triple-bypasses in the chest, a bypass in the leg, two back surgeries . . . 14 operations in the last 10 years," he ticked off. "It's a great tournament. I may have to have disk surgery when I get back, but I'm going down there to win the whole thing."
After the 72 holes, the flight winners will play an 18-hole round at The Dunes Beach and Golf Club to determine the overall champion.
Jim Griffin of Bel Air is another among the 75 entries from the Baltimore metropolitan area. "This will be my fourth trip, and it's getting bigger and better every time," explained the insurance agent, who has a 9 handicap at Maryland Golf and CC. "I go because I love to participate and maybe because I've had some success." He was a flight winner one year.
"I've been playing 35 years, mostly as a weekend player. And I enjoy Myrtle Beach. A friend of mine who will also be competing this week [Don Miller of Pasadena] and I go two or three times a year, and I plan to retire there. As for the tournament, the people do a great job of making you feel welcome."
Last week's Middle Atlantic PGA championship also served as the qualifier for the PGA's club pro championship to be held Oct. 3-6 at Doral CC in Miami. Eleven players advanced, headed by champion Bruce Lehnhard and runner-up Bob Boyd, who has a lifetime exemption as a former national champion. The others were David Jimenez, Mark Guttenberg, Glen Barrett, Mike West, Don Slebodnik, Bud Lintelman, Mike Moyers, Woody FitzHugh and Phil Stewart.
The victory also brought Lehnhard a ticket to this fall's Wilson Club Pro Classic, and exemptions to next year's Erie (Pa.) Classic, Kemper Open and Anheuser-Busch Clasic.
A footnote to last week's championship in Williamsburg, Va., was the husband-wife duel between Dick and Mary Alice Canney of Chantilly National in Centreville, Va. Former Baltimorean Mary Alice, playing from the same Blue tees as her male counterparts, trailed Dick by two strokes (163-165) after two rounds, but the leader pulled away on the final day, finishing 78-241 to his wife's 85-250.
One overzealous pro said before the tournament he would like to be paired with Mrs. Canney (she and Dick have four grown daughters and three grandchildren) because she was one player he could beat. Although not paired together, she may have silenced him with a four-stroke whipping.
At least 26 teams are entered in tomorrow's sixth annual Ronald McDonald House pro-am tournament at Eagle's Nest. PGA Tour participants are Brian Claar, Russ Cochran, Lee Elder and Fred Funk, and LPGA players are Tina Barrett, Myra Blackwelder, Elaine Crosby, Cindy Figg-Currier, Lori Garbacz, Laurel Kean,
Michelle McGann and Terry Jo Myers.