For Funk, it's been a pain in neck

Ailing former Terps coach has poor Kemper history

Kemper Open notebook

May 27, 1999|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

POTOMAC -- It is not enough that Fred Funk has to contend with mental demons after his tie for second in the Colonial last week; now he has to deal with a physical ailment.

"The muscle on the right side of my neck flared up on Tuesday, but it feels better after the treatment I had this morning," Funk said yesterday before his afternoon pro-am tee time.

"It's a chronic problem that comes and goes."

Early last evening, at the conclusion of his round, Funk, who had four birdies in a bogey-free outing, declared: "I'm hurting, but I'll be OK. I'll be there." His tee time today is 12: 27.

The Kemper has not been kind to the Takoma Park native, a former Middle Atlantic PGA champion and onetime golf coach at the University of Maryland.

Funk, who turns 43 in three weeks, made the Kemper cut twice in three starts while at College Park, but has played 72 holes here only four times in 10 starts as a tour regular.

One of them was last year, though, when he started 64-66 for a tournament-record 12-under-par 130, good for a three-stroke lead. A par-71 Saturday left him with a one-shot margin, which disappeared quickly Sunday.

"I got part way to winning here, as I was in the last group, but coming down 18, I was waving a white flag," he said. A closing 77 left him in a five-way tie for third, four shots behind winner Stuart Appleby.

"It's human nature to replay what happens to you. I wanted this tournament too badly last year. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and Sunday, I thought I was on my way to a 90. Two days later, I couldn't sleep thinking about that round.

"Still, that finish gave me confidence I didn't have before on this course."

He has that same mental attitude about his 1999 season, one in which he has had three Top 10 finishes in 15 events. He is 32nd on the money list with $604,453, and stands first in driving accuracy.

"I've put myself in position to win tournaments, but have not done it. I'm putting myself there, but not doing it on the weekend.

"Last week was disappointing, but I have to look at the positive side," he said. "It's one of those `what if' years so far."

Area flavor

Frederick native Donnie Hammond, in via a sponsor's exemption, will be making his 17th consecutive Kemper appearance. Only a handful have played more, headed by Bobby Wadkins (20).

A nonexempt player after finishing 167th on last year's money list, Hammond has played in five events this season and made every cut. His best finish was a tie for 17th at Greensboro.

Among the others is Washington native Olin Browne, last week's tour winner at the Colonial, who lived in the District of Columbia until graduating from St. Albans School and going off to Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Also in the field are Middle Atlantic PGA members Dirk Schultz of Hagerstown and Rick Schiller of Centreville, Va., plus the four players from Monday's qualifier: Curley Bishop Jr., New Market; Rob Butcher, East Greenwich, R.I.; Cliff Kresge, Apopka, Fla.; and Richard Coughlan, an Irishman who calls Clemson, S.C., home after graduating from the university there in 1997.

Putt for dough

Maxine Cohen of Pikesville sank a 10-foot putt worth $25,000 Tuesday in the Gillette Putting Challenge, part of the pre-Kemper festivities.

Cohen, 43, was randomly selected in a sweepstakes held at Giant supermarkets in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. She will keep half the money and half will go to tournament charities.

"I felt really relaxed and it was great to have the pros there to help me line it up," said Cohen, who said she practiced putting for a half-hour daily after learning of her selection a week ago. "I thought I had a chance when I hit it, and I couldn't believe it when it fell in the cup."

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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