HERSHEY, Pa. -- Call it the proverbial surprise leader, or quality depth the LPGA likes to talk about, or attribute it to two rain delays totaling almost 4 1/2 hours, but the Lady Keystone Open leader board looks like the Little-Known Open.
With only half of the field of 144 able to complete 18 holes yesterday, Nanci Bowen was in with the early first-round lead on a 5-under-par 67. Four were at 69, two were at 70.
Among those on the Hershey Country Club's West Course when darkness suspended play at 8:06 p.m. were three players with Maryland ties, plus two on the leader board.
Laurel Kean, who collected eagles at the 362-yard par-4 14th and 451-yard par-5 16th, stood 6-under with three holes to play, and Danielle Ammaccapane was 4-under with six holes left.
Of the top five in, only Muffin Spencer-Devlin has won more than once. Three are non-winners, including two in their second seasons.
Tina Barrett, who plays from Baltimore's Sparrows Point CC, hit 17 greens but was realistically too far away to make much happen, and she settled for a 1-over 38-35--73. The tour included two short birdie putts on the back and two three-putts.
From the field, Bowen had to be one of the least likely to succeed.
Through 12 events this year, the second-year pro had made one cut and earned $969. She matched her career-low round of 70 once, but it followed an 80. The stroke average was 75.58.
In the first group off No. 10 at 7:30 a.m., Bowen had to endure a three-hour rain delay in the morning and another of one hour, 26 minutes in mid-afternoon.
So where did a 32-35--67 come from?
"I got pretty psyched after working with my teacher, Ted Sheftic [Hanover CC, Abbottstown, Pa.] earlier in the week," she said. "It's been frustrating, especially last week [78-73 at the ShopRite Classic in Somers Point, N.J.]. I was ready to throw the clubs away.
"He got me to square my shoulders and stay behind the ball. I had been hitting it solid, but didn't know where it was going."
She admitted it was hard to get out of bed for the early tee time, but, "I'd much rather go first than wait around." This was in contrast with the afternoon players, the last of whom did not start until 6 p.m.
"I was pumped, but a little nervous," added Bowen, 25, one of several tour players who are products of Baltimorean Beans Kelly's stellar University of Georgia program.
"Then patience was the key word with the rain delays. And it was harder to focus after the second one," when she still had three holes left.
"I thought if I could get off to a good start, things will work out, and, surprisingly, they did."
She got the first of her seven birdies at No. 10, got caught in the first rainstorm at No. 13, and had two bogeys and two birdies afterward to turn in 1-under 35.
There were four birdies on the front side, with a breaking 40-foot putt at No. 9 the most spectacular. Except for a 20-footer, the other birdie putts were from inside 15 feet.
NOTES: The four 69s were Marianne Morris, Jane Crafter, Nancy Scranton and Spencer-Devlin. . . . This morning, players will complete the first round beginning at 7:30, then will begin the second round at 8:40. Yesterday's morning players will go in the afternoon and vice-versa.