Crowd sits atop LPGA Championship 10 deadlocked at 3-under 68 after first round

June 11, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

BETHESDA -- They came off the course in a steady stream, with one vital thing in common. Their magic number was 68.

That's 68 as in 3-under-par. Ten players shot 68 in the first round of the $1 million Mazda LPGA Championship yesterday at Bethesda Country Club. The LPGA said that a 10-way, first-round tie is probably a record for the tournament that began in 1955, but couldn't verify it.

The list was headed by a pair of Hall of Famers, Nancy Lopez, a three-time winner of this event, and Patty Sheehan, who has won it twice.

They were joined by Japan's Hiromi Kobayashi, Scotland's Pamela Wright, Canada's Barb Bunkowsky, Switzerland's Evelyn Orley, England's Trish Johnson, this year's leading money-winner, and fellow Americans Cathy Johnston-Forbes, Cindy Rarick and Joan Pitcock.

Only three players were better than 3-under at any point. Kobayashi dipped to 5-under on the 15th hole, but bogeyed 17 and 18. Lopez and Rarick were briefly 4-under.

Thirty-six players in the field of 144 shot par 71 or better. JoAnne Carner, 54, another Hall of Famer, was in a group of six at 69.

Lopez checked in at 4:45 p.m. as the seventh player with a 68. She has 46 career victories, two last year, but has yet to win this year.

"A 68 is a good sign," Lopez said. "My history is that my worst rounds are at the start of a tournament, and I get better as it goes on. I've won more times coming from behind than when I lead throughout."

Lopez is on her own this week. Husband Ray Knight, a former major-league infielder who played for the Orioles for one season, took a job as Cincinnati Reds hitting instructor a few weeks ago. Knight is usually outside the ropes as moral support for Lopez.

XTC "He comes to almost all of them, at least for two days," Lopez said. "He's a confident person, and that rubs off on me." Smiling, she added, "But I've won more without him on the scene, so maybe it's better he's not here."

At 36 and in her 17th year on the tour, Lopez finds it increasingly difficult to win.

"It's harder and harder, but that in itself drives you," Lopez said. "Anyone in the top 40 can win, and none of these young players are intimidated by a big name. They look at you as if to say, 'I'm going to beat you.' "

The least experienced member of the 68 club is Orley, 26, who joined the tour last October after a successful amateur career in Europe. Yesterday's round was a milestone for her.

"It's my first time under par," she said. "I've never made the cut. It's my first time on the leader board. It's my first major."

She wouldn't be here if a Swiss sponsor, Ebel Watches, hadn't stepped forward. She was going to law school at the University of Denver, which her father said he could sponsor. What he couldn't sponsor was a year on the tour.

Johnston-Forbes is here as a bride of barely three weeks. She has known her husband, Foster Forbes, since they were in elementary school in High Point, N.C. He is her caddy.

"I've played better since we got married," she said. "We didn't take a honeymoon. I shared the first-round lead in my first tournament and finished tied for 12th. I shot a 67 last Sunday [at the Oldsmobile Classic] in Michigan and a 1-under for the tournament."

Johnson, 27, who tops the money list with $243,025, is becoming a regular on the leader board. She has six top 10 finishes this year.

"This is the best stretch of golf I've had," Johnson said. "It's reached the point where I'd be surprised if I didn't play well every week."

Sharing the leader board with the likes of Lopez and Sheehan is no big deal; conquering this course is.

"Lopez and Sheehan are on the leader board almost every week, so I'm used to it," Johnson said. "This course is probably the

most difficult one on the tour.

"It's a tough driving course. One bad shot on any hole and you're dead. There are a lot of doglegs. A 3-under here is like a 5-under anywhere else."

Rarick credited her strong round to a session this week with a sports psychologist, Chuck Hogan, who has counseled her for three years. They talk about "my golf and my life."

She said she likes to leave the sessions with Hogan in a happy mood. She was so happy yesterday that she was singing to herself on the course -- not the national anthem, as she did last year before a White Sox-Royals game at Comiskey Park.

"I was singing 'My Funny Valentine,' " Rarick said, laughing.

LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP

%

The leaders . . . Cathy Johnston-Forbes.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35-33-68

Pamela Wright .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33-35-68

Patty Sheehan .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 34-34-68

Cindy Rarick .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..34-34-68

Joan Pitcock .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..34-34-68

Nancy Lopez .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35-33-68

Hiromi Kobayashi .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33-35-68

Trish Johnson .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33-35-68

Barb Bunkowsky .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 34-34-68

Evelyn Orley .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .... 33-35-68

!

. . . And followers

Jan Stephenson.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 35-34-69

JoAnne Carner .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 34-35-69

Liselotte Neumann .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 37-35-72

Betsy King .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 37-35-72

Laura Davies .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..36-36-72

Beth Daniel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 36-38-74

Amy Alcott .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 40-34-74

Tina Barrett .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 39-38-77

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