HERSHEY, Pa. -- Laura Davies has a special interest in the Lady Keystone Open, this week's LPGA event at Hershey Country Club. She says she'll be able to put her driver back in the bag.
Davies, a long-hitting Englishwoman who attracted attention in this country when she won a three-way playoff for the 1987 U.S. Women's Open championship, got off to a mediocre start in her fourth year on tour, but recent events have her in a positive mood.
Not only has Hershey CC been one of her favorite courses since winning the 1989 LKO (when she birdied the last three holes), but it also has reasonably wide fairways, even though most of them are tree-lined.
"We play so many tight courses with out of bounds that I have to hit irons off the tees," Davies said before her pro-am start earlier this week. "McDonald's [Du Pont CC in Wilmington, Del.] and here are fairly open, and I can hit the driver."
During a two-week break from the U.S. tour, Davies played two events on the women's European tour, finishing ninth in Belgium and fourth in Spain. McDonald's was her first week back, and she tied for 43rd.
Last week, she lost a playoff to Anne-Marie Palli at Atlantic City, N.J. It was her best finish since winning the Inamori Classic in California 15 months ago.
"Putting was a big factor last week, as I averaged 26 putts for the three rounds -- and that's about seven below my norm," she said. "That had been holding me back earlier, although I have played reasonably well the last two months. To play well, though, you have to have all the parts going properly.
Referring to an earlier practice round, she said: "It was wonderful. I hit drivers all over the place and loved it. That's better than dreaming about
white stakes [out of bounds markers]. Trees don't scare me; OB does."
Unlike some of the PGA Tour pros, notably Davis Love III, whhave geared down on their drives in favor of accuracy, Davies will hit the driver where she can. "I hit a 9-iron to No. 16 [451 yards], and I can't remember doing that before. The drive had to be 300 yards."
Barring rain, the players, many of them already declaring the course in the best condition they've seen it, will be in for a fast track, particularly the greens where the surfaces were Sunday-slick by mid-week.
NOTES: There have been 15 winners of the regular 18 events, including five first-timers. Two of the multiple winners are in the LKO field, Danielle Ammaccapane and Colleen Walker. . . . Baltimorean Tina Barrett is among the statistical leaders in two categories: eighth in driving accuracy, .771, and 10th in greens in regulation, .692. . . . Today, Barrett has a 9 a.m. tee time, and the others with area ties are in the 12:50-1:40 p.m. time frame. . . . In addition to Walker and Davies, former LKO champions in the field are Sandra Spuzich, Pat Bradley, Nancy Lopez, Jan Stephenson, Juli Inkster and Shirley Furlong. . . . When Davies finishes here, she'll be headed back to Europe to play in two European tour events in Germany, then returns the week before the U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont CC. She doesn't know whether this schedule bothers her because "I've never stayed in one place long enough to tell."
Facts and figures
What: 17th annual Lady Keystone Open
Where: Hershey, Pa.
Site: Hershey CC (West Course), 6,348 yards, par 72
When: Today through Sunday (18-hole rounds each day)
Field: 144 professionals. Cut will be low 70 and ties for the last round
Who: Defending champion Colleen Walker, Danielle Ammaccapane, Brandie Burton and Betsy King are among top five money winners this season. Players with area ties are Tina Barrett, Joan Joyce, Michelle Mackall, Kim Williams.
Purse: $400,000. First place, $60,000. Second place, $37,000. Third place, $27,000.
Directions: I-83 North to Exit 20 (signs for Harrisburg). Follow I-83 to Route 322--Hershey. Follow signs for Hersheypark and take Hersheypark Drive to dead end. Turn right and follow signs for