BETHESDA -- Beth Daniel is discovering that tournament victories bring outside interference.
A year ago, Daniel had the kind of year most players only dream about. Her seven wins on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour were the most by an individual since Nancy Lopez's nine in 1978. She picked up her second straight Vare Trophy for low scoring average. She was Rolex Player of the Year. She was acclaimed United Press International Female Athlete of the Year.
As a result, "This year has been tough," Daniel said yesterday during a media-day visit to Bethesda Country Club. Daniel will defend her Mazda LPGA Championship title here in a little more than two weeks. "There has been a lot of pressure because of the wins, a lot of outside appearances." This includes seven such media appearances, one for each of her titles.
"Right now, I'm at the stage where I like to take time off . . . get away from the tour. I have a home in Florida and a boat for fishing and relaxing. These are among my recently acquired toys, and I like to spend time with them."
Last year, she set a one-season record of $863,578, helped along by victories in the two $1 million tournaments, here and the Centel Classic in Tallahassee, Fla.
"The result of all this is my golf game has suffered. There are a couple of minor problems in my swing. I don't like what I'm seeing, but I'll play Hershey this week, Wilmington next week and, hopefully, be ready for the Championship."
The Mazda LPGA Championship will be held at Bethesda CC, June 27-30.
Despite her protestations, Daniel, 34 and a 13-year tour veteran, has had a good 1991. She came off a break to win the Phar-Mor at Inverrary tournament in February and went on to finish alone in second at the Orix Hawaiian Open and the Desert Inn International in Las Vegas, all within a five-week span.
She tied for fourth at Rochester two weeks ago, then took off a week. For the year, she is fourth on the money list with nearly $208,000.
Of a return to Bethesda, and a possible third straight triumph -- she won the last Greater Washington Open in 1989 -- she says: "Good memories inspire good golf. You always like coming back to a course where you have done well.
"Obviously, I have good memories here [a GWO second in 1988]. Two years ago when I won, my game was on the road to recovery after not having won for four years. And, of course, the LPGA Championship was my first major win.
"It's hard to describe the feelings of last year. I played so well, then had to fight off Rosie Jones down the stretch. I remember walking up to each green and being greeted by cheers from the gallery. They gave me goose bumps, but it is that sort of response that encourages you to play better.
"Bethesda is special, too, because I like the old, traditional courses. They are demanding in all aspects of the game. You have to drive the ball straight and with the small greens, you have to position your ball in the right places.
"I can't say that about all the courses we play, either, because I can get bored with them if they aren't this good."