BETHESDA — BETHESDA -- They come in off the golf course and, on cue, start their recitations: "Drive, 7-iron to about 20 feet, two putts . . . drive, 8-iron to 12 feet, got it for a birdie."
Listen for a while and you envision a world of tee shots straight down the middle of the fairway, nifty approach shots to the green and constant attempts at birdies. Pars become blase, birdies half expected and bogeys (sniff), what are they?
But that's up with the leaders on the LPGA Tour, the women who always seem to be in contention the last day of the tournament, people who rarely get to commune with nature, who carry names like Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel, Amy Alcott and Patty Sheehan.
It's a precise and often entertaining game they play, but it is by no means representative of the real game being waged in the LPGA Championship over the Bethesda Country Club these days.
It's hole No. 10 and Robin Hood has driven the ball through the fairway and she's in the second line of trees on the left. Robin Hood should be good in the forest, right? Bent over under a pine tree, Hood punches a 4-iron that is not only out of trouble but ends up on the back of the green. She nearly drops the putt before settling for par.
On the 14th hole, Ayako Okamoto smacks a terrific drive and she's thinking about her clear shot to the green when she arrives at her ball. Yikes, who put that tree there with the green fading off to the left behind. She hoists a 7-iron up and over everything and it plops on the green.
It was easy finding players coming to grips with shots that tested their mettle, ingenuity and, in at least one case, sanity.
Susie Redmen smacked a wood at the long, par-3 11th that looked delicious leaving the tee. Then it started to hook, and hook. "Fore left!" she hollered. She ended up with a sidehill lie with a trap to clear and very little green to work with. She scuffed a shot, arrived on the green in three and two-putted for a double bogey.
She managed a grin on the next tee and soon had things back on track.
Dale Eggeling had a doozer of an assignment at No. 6. Her tee shot was in a trap and she had to stand on a banking a foot above the ball and hammer away. The recovery was first class, but caught sand guarding the green left. Her explosion from the trap was true and fairly kissed the flagstick as it slipped four feet by. It was with a chipper step she moved around the green before saving her par.
These ladies and many more met their moments of crises and stared them down with character, resolve and innovation. Maybe the best of the opening-round "escape artists" was Tina Purtzer, who seemed predestined for a month's worth of trouble in a single afternoon.
A putt headed dead center somehow circled out of the sixth hole. She drove into the woods at No. 7, but a big break, it went through. Yeah, next to a stump where you could barely get a swing at it. She hit a low iron, got a kindly bounce off the side of a hill in the rough and the ball trickled onto the green. What looked like a sure par ended up a bogey when she three-putted.
Tina Purtzer did what any self-respecting golfer would do under the circumstances: She threw the ball away.
At No. 8, henceforth to be known as "The Mazda in the middle of the pond hole," Tina recovered smartly from a trap only to three-putt again.
After one more hole and finished with the cards signed, Purtzer took up residence on a chair outside the clubhouse and appeared to be rendering a confession to her caddy. Slowly, the upset went away. It had been a bad day, sure, but if trouble lie ahead in the second round today, Tina Purtzer figured to be the one who could handle it.
As she recovered, she watched Cathy Gerring finish her round. The ball rested under a Christmas tree-sized pine. After trying three different stances, Cathy backed into the needles, took the sticks and nudged the ball just a couple of feet into the fairway. She ended with a bogey. Purtzer suddenly sensed she had not been alone out there.
Back in the interview room, Deb Richard, who finished a stroke off the lead with a 67, was saying, "I had a relatively easy round for this course. I hit all but two fairways, I think, and I faced only one [lengthy] putt for a par all day and got the 35-footer at the 18th."