Freedman, Forbes, Falls are at top in amateur

Leaders shoot 2-under 68 in Middle Atlantic event


October 04, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BETHESDA - Before yesterday afternoon's first round in the 72-hole Middle Atlantic Amateur Golf Championships, Gaithersburg native Dan Falls admitted he had been discouraged with his game.

"I was actually thinking about withdrawing from this event," Falls said. "[Defending champion] Brian Quackenbush kind of talked me into playing. Now I'm glad he did."

Falls, 26, opened the tournament with a 2-under 68 at the par-70, 6,674-yard Bethesda Country Club course and is in a three-way tie atop the 120-player field with Greenbelt's Chuck Freedman and Cordes Forbes IV of Columbia, S.C.

Falls, who played four years of college golf at Furman University before graduating in 1999, took two years off from the sport after college. But in March he returned in an attempt to become a professional, and yesterday Falls mixed birdies on the fourth, sixth, seventh and 18th holes with two bogeys for a share of the lead.

"It was a solid round," Falls said. "I hit a lot of fairways and kept the ball in play, which was sort of my weakness. Generally I don't hit too well off the tee, so if I can get the ball in play I generally do very well. I'm really confident in my short game. If I can just keep making solid swings, I think I'll be fine."

Freedman, 44, also birdied four holes and bogeyed twice. Freedman, who played minor professional golf from 1986 to 1991 and now owns a golf retail store in Beltsville, birdied the second, fourth, 10th and 18th holes.

"I hit the ball pretty solid, hit a couple suspect shots, but recovered pretty decently," Freedman said. "I'm very happy. You can't win on the first day, but you can certainly put yourself out of it real quick."

Forbes, 26, was a college teammate of Falls' at Furman and is currently a third-year law student at the University of South Carolina. He bogeyed the third hole, but then birdied 11, 12 and 14 for a 32 on the back nine to earn a share of the lead.

Behind the leaders there is a logjam. Six players are two shots back after shooting even-par 70, five players are three back at 1-over 71, and 2001 champion Quackenbush is among a group of 12 who are four back at 2-over 72.

Chad Unitas, the son of recently deceased Baltimore Colts quarterback John Unitas, finished with a 14-over 84. It was his first round of golf in more than three weeks.

"I haven't really been able to practice that much," Unitas said. "It's just good to get out and not have to deal with all the things I've had to deal with the past couple weeks. Losing my father is the toughest thing I've ever had to deal with. My father was my best friend, but it's all part of life and all part of growing up."

(Scores, 2d)

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