Daly parks his car, starts driving

Pro quickly in swing

Gary Williams can't hit big ones in pro-am

Kemper Open notebook

Golf

May 30, 2000|By Sam Borden | Sam Borden,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC - With the majority of its marquee players still in Ohio, the PGA Tour made a quiet entrance into the area yesterday as practice for the $3million Kemper Insurance Open officially got under way.

While many pros were finishing their final round of the rain-delayed Memorial Tournament, the biggest names at Avenel were 1991 PGA champion John Daly and University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.

Daly, who never met a highway he didn't like, left Dardanelle, Ark., late last night, picked up his caddie, Ronnie McCann, in Lexington, Ky., and pulled into the course parking lot at Avenel at 8:30 a.m.

Without benefit of sleep, the pair was out on the range by 10 and spent all morning and much of the afternoon working on Daly's game.

Known as much for his off-the-course battles with alcoholism as his gargantuan drives on it, Daly is trying to find some consistency on a course over which he almost won the title in 1992, finishing tied for second, just one shot back.

"It hasn't been a very good year for me golf-wise," said Daly, who has missed the cut in seven of the 13 events he's entered this season.

"I've always played pretty well here, though. It's a hard course and I've always seemed to play better on the tougher courses. This isn't a place where 20-under will win; it will be more like 11 or 12. I'm more comfortable in those types of tournaments than in the shootouts."

Williams, who guided the Terrapins to the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament this year, brought his 14-handicap to Potomac to play in the Ford's Colony Pro-Am.

The member of nearby Congressional Country Club played in a group that featured PGA pro Chip Beck, who shot a 59 during the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational.

"I told him that I want a repeat performance," Williams joked on the range before the round.

As for his own ability with the clubs, the Maryland coach said he has been hampered by the rain that has drenched the area lately. "I haven't been able to play that much because it's been wet, but I'm trying," he said. "I'm just happy to be out here."

Unfortunately, Beck could not duplicate his record feat in the Stableford scoring event and Williams shot 84, leaving the foursome in the middle of the pack with 80 points.

Professional Danny Briggs led his team (which included Gaithersburg's Charles Mathews) to the championship in the pro-am with a final score of 99 points.

Status quo approach

Although the Kemper Open added "Insurance" to its name this year, that may be the biggest change the event has undergone.

The course, for all intents and purposes, is much the same as it was a year ago, said Avenel general manager Todd Strane.

"This year, we concentrated on taking the changes we made last year and keeping them consistent," he said. "This is the second year of the fairway's conversion from zoysia grass to a mixture of bentgrass and rye and the fairways are as good as we've seen them. This is the best condition we've seen the course in quite a while."

Feeling small

As the 1 p.m start of the pro-am drew near, the practice tee became increasingly crowded, forcing players to grab whatever space they could find and just start swinging.

For amateur Bill Leahy, that meant attempting to warm up his middle-handicap game while Daly bombed drives over the fence surrounding the range just a few feet away.

"It makes you feel kind of small," said Leahy, who lives in Falls Church, Va. "They said take any spot and I didn't realize it was next to Daly until after I started hitting. At least now I can breathe again."

Et cetera

Steve Flesch and Brent Geiberger withdrew from the 156-player field Friday, giving first and second alternates Robert Gamez and Dick Mast passage into the tournament. ... Spectators can purchase grounds passes (good for any one day of play tomorrow through Sunday) for $35. Pavilion Club tickets are $45, and children 17 and under can watch the action for $5. Tickets for today's practice round are $10, though children can enter free.

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