POTOMAC — POTOMAC -- Billy Andrade wouldn't trade the experience of winning his first PGA tournament here at the Kemper Open last year for anything. However, he would like to have it back to perhaps change a few of the things that followed his playoff victory over close friend Jeff Sluman.
"You talk about winning, and hear and read about the experience from the other players, but you have no idea until it happens to you," he says.
"Before, you had too much time. You'd show up at a tournament, play and practice as much as you wanted and nobody cared who you were. Suddenly, you don't have enough time to do what you want and accomplish the things you should."
One of the first things Andrade did following his Kemper victory on a 6-foot birdie putt after playing the regulation 72 holes in 21-under-par is go out and win again. A week later, he had a strong start at the U.S. Open before, as he put it, "I hit the wall. NNTC knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when."
What was good about it is Billy knew he needed some time off. When he came back, he struggled a bit, but then he hit stride again: "I missed a four-way playoff at Hartford by a shot. I lost by one stroke at the Tournament of Champions, finished fourth in a tourney in Australia, won a mixed event and won a couple of matches in the World Match Play, one of them over Ian Woosnam."
But, as a winner, he was now being courted by manufacturers. He signed on with a Japanese concern to use its clubs, figuring there would be no problem since they closely adhered to the specifications and feel of his old clubs. Tilt!
"I played with them for the first months of the year and I missed a couple of cuts. I was losing bad," he said. "I went home and, thinking it was my swing, I got the old set out. I hit it so much better with the clubs I had had since college [Wake Forest]. The new clubs were totally different."
Andrade, who has been good enough to win $77,000 to date, relates a story about playing the first two rounds of the Houston Open with Fred Funk a month ago. "I know Fred from the days when he was coaching at Maryland. He used to hit about twice as many balls as his players did," he recalls.
"He told me he was going to rest after the tournament, having been out for quite a stretch, but he ended up winning. Knowing what I know now, I would have been on my way home. Fred kept going. When you're going through it, you keep going, you feed off that positive reinforcement of winning because you've never had it before. Handling it, that's the key."
Andrade skipped the tour stop in Fort Worth, Texas, last week, rested and checked into this area several days ago. "My sister lives here and I'll live with her," he says. "The family will be here as they were last year and it's a really relaxed atmosphere."
Just what a golfer needs to perform at his best.
* It's a strong field lined up and rarin' to go in tomorrow's opening round at Avenel. Still, for every Greg Norman, Mark O'Meara, Mark Calcavecchia and Payne Stewart due to tee it up, there's two or three name golfers missing.
For example, Funk is the only tournament winner in the last 17 weeks entered. Taking the week off are Sunday's participants in a playoff at The Colonial, Bruce Lietzke and Corey Pavin. Also home for a breather are the tour's top two players to date, Fred Couples and Davis Love, plus tourney winners Tom Kite, Raymond Floyd and Chip Beck.
The problem is, even with the improved date on the schedule, the Kemper escaping the brutally hot and humid days of July, this week is a natural break week as far as many players are concerned.
Last week was The Colonial. Everyone plays that stop as action in the Southwest wraps up. Next week is The Memorial in Ohio, Jack Nicklaus' tournament. The U.S. Open is due up in three weeks. So even though the prize money here totals $1.1 million, some players schedule themselves off for fear that if they go beyond playing four or five weeks in a row, they'll be flirting with burnout.
* Besides Norman, who always draws the most interest and biggest galleries wherever he goes, no doubt the most popular golfer the next couple of days will be John Daly, the Paul Bunyan of the tour.
The blocky (5-foot-10, 190-pound) surprise winner of the PGA Championship last year has had only moderate success this season, but the power this guy displays off the tee always turns the multitudes on.
Lee Trevino tells the story of being on a practice tee at a tournament early in the year when Big John came out carrying just his driver:
"The crowd went wild. John put down about 10 balls and belted them all over a high fence about 300 yards away, and the people went bananas again. John smiled, waved and left.
"Hey, it's great to have that power," Trevino continues, "but I can assure him there's a little more to this game than whacking the ball a mile. He's going to find he's going to have to get after the rest of his game."