Funk finds himself in good company


POTOMAC -- One of a tournament champion's perks was readily visible yesterday, when Fred Funk was paired with Billy Andrade and Mark O'Meara. They drew times in the middle of the morning for the first round of the 25th Kemper Open at TPC-Avenel.

"Billy is the defending champion, and Mark's a proven winner," said Funk, who joined the elite group -- which tees off in the afternoon today -- by winning at Houston four weeks ago. O'Meara has won seven times in 12 years, and Andrade twice in five.

"It was a great pairing. I was 2-under and four back at one point, so I knew I had some work to do," Funk continued. "Billy's round [66] was fun to watch, and Mark has a great swing. And I'm still trying to get used to these pairings."

Funk had two three-putts and what he called, "one of the best pars I've ever had." At the 472-yard 12th, he hooked his tee shot into the creek bordering the fairway, elected to play it (it was a couple of inches under the surface), and wedged the ball back into the fairway. From there, he hit a 6-iron shot onto the green and made the five-foot putt.

"Unbelievable," said Woody Fitz- Hugh, of Herndon, Va., like Funk a former Middle Atlantic PGA champion. Funk won the title an unprecedented three years in a row (1987-89).

Said Funk: "It's tough to play at home. I want to play so well, but I

don't seem to relax as much. Overall, I didn't hit it that well. I've got to do better off the tee."

* Bruce Lehnhard, of Lake of the Woods GC in Locust Grove, Va., opened with a 3-under 68 to lead Middle Atlantic area players.

The round included five birdies and two bogeys, and Lehnhard saved par on three of the four greens he missed in regulation. Lehnhard, whose Middle Atlantic PGA title last year earned him a ticket to this event, had missed the cut in three previous Kempers, with a 72 last year his best previous effort.

Woodholme CC teaching pro Wayne DeFrancesco bogeyed four his first six holes, then hit the last 12 greens and finished at 73. He shot 2-under 33 on the back nine, with birdies at Nos. 3 (three feet) and 17 (20 feet).

"It took a few holes to get comfortable, because I haven't played in something important in a long time," he said. "My body was not responding for a while, as I was getting quick at the top [of the swing]."

Among the others, Maryland Open titlist Jon Stanley hit 14 greens and had 74, and Crofton assistant professional Mark Spolarich saw two bad shots lead to double-bogeys and a round of 76. Also, Ron Terry, formerly of Aberdeen, marred an otherwise respectable round with a triple-bogey six at No. 9, his last hole. A bunker shot rolled into the water on the far side of the green,and he eventually two-putted from 20 feet.

* Mike Springer finished his pro-am round at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, and was back 12 hours later for his first-round starting time.

Despite the brief break, he returned a 1-under 35-3570, and said he felt he had played well. "I made 'double' at 12, and that's what's been killing me," said the second-year pro, who finished 91st on last year's money list with $178,587.

He was unhappy about the starting time process, but admitted others had been caught by it. "It's unfortunate that it happens. The tour says it's going to do something about it, but nothing's been done so far."

That's about to change, though, according to a tour official. "The [PGA Tour] policy board has recommended that the rules committee, which is responsible for the times, make sure the late pro-am players don't have early first-round times the next morning."

It was not done here, but will be implemented for all future tournaments.

* MISCELLANEOUS: PGA champion John Daly, virtually unnoticed when he tied for 16th at 12-under here last year, said it felt good to get a round under par (he had 77-74 at Colonial last week) after shooting a 68. . . . Although pre-tournament talk was of a tougher course and higher scores, 57 in a 154-man field broke par, compared with 54 a year ago. . . . The withdrawals continued, as Clarence Rose replaced Jay Delsing and Pat McGowan replaced Rocco Mediate. In addition, Dave Eichelberger and Scott Verplank (pulled muscle) withdrew during the round.

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