POTOMAC -- Stuart Appleby was standing outside the interview tent at the TPC at Avenel yesterday evening, signing hats, programs, balls and anything else his fans would extend to him, when he nearly mistook Scott Hoch as an autograph-seeker.
"I almost signed your hat," said Appleby, appearing a bit embarrassed by the mistaken identity.
Hoch, who had bowed to the young Australian by one stroke in the Kemper Open just moments earlier, never got Appleby's signature -- and he may regret it if Appleby follows the paths of recent Kemper Open winners and goes on to capture a major.
Justin Leonard, this year's defending tournament champ, went on to win the British Open last season after stealing the Kemper from Mark Wiebe, and 1995 Kemper champion Lee Janzen won the U.S. Open two weeks after his victory at Avenel.
"I suppose this can be a kick-start to winning a major. Justin used it as one," Appleby said. "I really hope this does do something for me in the major department. But, getting to play in a major is another level. That's something I may have to learn."
Before this week, Appleby was learning how to deal with missing the cut. In nine tournaments leading up to the Kemper, the native of Cohuna, Australia, was given seven weekends off.
"There are so many little grades to climb in golf," said Appleby, who at 27, became the sixth player born in the 1970s to win on the PGA Tour this season. "You have to take baby steps all the way up until you're peaking in your 30s."
Jam slows players
The massive traffic jams that forced some fans to sit in their cars for up to 2 1/2 hours within a mile of the course took their toll on the players, too. Fred Funk needed a police escort into the club, and Appleby was forced to get out of his car and walk more than a mile.
"That was the only unfortunate thing about the week," said Appleby, who apparently wasn't fazed by the mess. "It was a nightmare to get into the place. Traffic was busy because of Fred."
One hundred sixty-five players will try to qualify for 31 spots in the U.S. Open today at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville. Casey Martin will play in a 36-hole qualifier outside Dayton, Ohio. He will use a single-person motorized scooter approved by the USGA. Next year's Kemper Open is scheduled for May 24-30, three weeks ahead of the U.S. Open. An estimated crowd of 206,000 showed up this week at Avenel, including a record gallery of 55,000 yesterday. For the first time in the history of the tournament, every program was sold. "We don't feel that there was a Tiger Woods factor," tournament general chairman Ben Brundred said.
Pub Date: 6/08/98