Glasson is still Kemper operator

After 13th surgery, 2-time winner only 4 shots off Beem lead

May 29, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC -- He can barely hit a ball out of the rough, often having to settle for a chip into the fairway before going for the green. Bunkers are not much better for Bill Glasson. That he is still playing on the PGA Tour after 15 years and nearly as many surgeries is something of a miracle.

It figures that Glasson is the only player to have won the Kemper Open both at Congressional Country Club -- in 1985, beating Larry Mize with a 40-foot putt on the final hole -- and here at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in 1992. Glasson has had even more incarnations than the $2.5 million event itself.

Now 39, he has been operated on so often that, like Rocky movies and Donald Trump's wives, there are numbers attached to his body parts. At last count, there have been four procedures on his knees and as many on his sinuses, two each on his forearms and elbows. He even had a growth removed from his lip.

The list doesn't include the recurring back problems that nearly forced him to file for disability insurance eight years ago.

"I don't think the injuries are all negative," said Glasson. "I play a year or two and I am off for six months. So I still look forward to playing. When I come back, I appreciate the opportunity I have because I have been close to not ever playing again."

Last season's PGA Comeback Player of the Year, Glasson loves coming back to the Kemper Open. Despite making three bogeys on the back nine yesterday that dropped him out of the second-round lead, a 1-under-par 70 left Glasson in position to become the only player aside from Tom Weiskopf to win this tournament three times.

At 5-under-par 137, Glasson is four shots behind tour rookie Rich Beem, who led for the second straight day. The former assistant pro from El Paso who once quit the game to sell car stereos leads by three shots over journeyman Tommy Armour III and Dave Stockton III, as well as Bradley Hughes of Australia.

"I'm a little surprised being in the lead, but I'm not really surprised because of the way I am playing," said Beem, 28, whose adventurous round of 4-under 67 included seven birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey. "It's going to be a little different having all those eyes on me. I think I am strong enough to have the focus."

If Beem becomes the crowd favorite here to pull off this improbable victory -- it would be his first since winning the Hilton Open and its $5,000 first-place check last year in Soccoro, N.M. -- Glasson would certainly be the sentimental choice, giving his history in the tournament and in the operating room.

"It's always nice coming back here to the place where it has been very good to me over the years," said Glasson.

There was more a sense of urgency to this year's trip back. Struggling to regain the form that saw him win the Las Vegas Invitational and nearly $1 million in 1997, Glasson is still recovering from surgery that fall to reattach a tendon to his left elbow. Glasson had the same surgery on his right elbow a few years before.

"It was the worst of it, too, for me because I am such a left-arm player, all my speed comes from my left arm, so this one will take longer to completely come back if it ever does," said Glasson. "It has been almost 18 months, but that is the normal time frame. My right one took about 15 months."

Glasson spent the early part of the week working with his longtime teacher, former Congressional pro Kent Cayce, who now owns the Laurel Golf Center. Glasson was there on Monday and Tuesday, and Cayce was with him on the practice range here Wednesday and again yesterday.

"He has a lot of talent," said Cayce. "He's won eight times [on tour] with five different swings. It depends on which part of his body is working. He's extremely dedicated. He goes with what he can do. He's fortunate to be healthy right now. He's always been flexible mentally to adjust."

Of their relationship, Glasson said, "He does the technical part and then my job is to try to get it in the hole.

Proving himself a good listener, Glasson birdied five of his first 11 holes yesterday to take a three-shot lead at 8-under par. But his drive on the par-4 12th hole found the rough, forcing him to chip into the fairway. He wound up with a bogey, the first of three in a stretch of six holes in which he three-putted twice.

"It's kind of a Catch-22 when you start hitting it a little better, start hitting more shots on line that weren't quite perfect [technically]. That is where I kind of lose touch with reality. The last seven holes I was probably tinkering with my swing instead of playing golf. That's the kind of funk I've been in the last six weeks."

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