70 warms up DeFrancesco

Woodholme's own takes his best shot, though mind on club-pro championship


Kemper Open

May 31, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC - Playing in the Kemper Insurance Open is still a big deal for Woodholme assistant pro Wayne DeFrancesco. It's a chance for DeFrancesco to test his game against some of the world's best players, as he did yesterday with an opening round of 1-under-par 70 at the TPC at Avenel.

But DeFrancesco is using this week's PGA Tour event, and next week's Buick Classic in Harrison, N.Y., to get ready for his biggest tournament of the year. That will take place in three weeks, when he defends his title in the PGA National Club Pro Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

"I kind of describe the National Club Pro Championship as the biggest tournament I have a reasonable chance of winning," said DeFrancesco, who won last year's tournament at the Sun River Resort in Bend, Ore. "It's by far the greatest thing I've ever done."

DeFrancesco, the reigning Middle Atlantic PGA Player of the Year, is still enjoying the perks from his victory. Aside from a $50,000 first prize, a Rolex watch and a computer, he received exemptions into six PGA Tour events. He has played in two, missing the cut in Tucson and Greensboro.

If he can repeat his round today, he will make the Kmeper cut for the first time since 1992, when he finished tied for 55th. He finished tied for 60th in 1984, when the tournament was played at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

DeFrancesco also made the cut in the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

"It wouldn't change my life, but it's something to put on the resume," said DeFrancesco. "It's a confidence booster for the future. It's an accomplishment anytime a club pro makes the cut at a PGA Tour event."

His victory in last year's National Club Pro Championship had a major impact on DeFrancesco's life.

"My lesson book is smashed in," he said. "It'll be about five months before anyone can get a lesson. I've been trying to stay in good condition to do everything. I've either been teaching full time or playing full time."

New day for DiMarco

In the past, Chris DiMarco has been just another player filling out the field in the Kemper. This year, DiMarco came to Avenel as the highest-ranked player in the field, No. 10 in the world rankings.

"That's just a number," he said yesterday after a 5-under 66 left him three shots off the lead. "It matters more to you guys [in the media] than it does to me. I don't care about that. I like the money-list numbers. That's the one I'm looking for."

DiMarco, 33, is eighth on the tour's money list with $1,628,958. He is looking to back up his victory earlier this year in Phoenix - it was his third in as many seasons - with a win this week.

"I'm trying to put myself in position to win as many tournaments as I can," said DiMarco, who also finished tied for fourth in New Orleans last month. "I know it's an old cliche."

But a good one.

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