For a player who ranks in the bottom 1 percent among his peers when it comes to average length off the tee, John Inman does a fine job of playing well on the long and demanding Tournament Players Club courses on the PGA Tour.
Inman, 5 feet 10 and 155 pounds, averages 239 yards with his drives, yet had one of his best rounds of the year when he shot 65 on the 7,005-yard TPC-Avenel course in Thursday's first round of the Kemper Open. In the rain-suspended third round, he was even for the day through 16 holes. That leaves him at 5-under, three strokes behind the leader.
Earlier in the year, he had had a 65 at TPC-Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas, and his best finish has been a tie for sixth at English Turn in New Orleans, at 7,116 yards, one of the longest tour courses.
He followed his Kemper 65 with a 72 Friday, highlighted by a hole-in-one, and stood at 5-under-par 137, tied for eighth place, entering yesterday's third round.
The difference in the first two rounds?
"Thursday, a chip-in and a holed bunker shot were among seven birdies and I had 28 putts. The second round, I played pretty well but putted terribly," he said.
"Every time I missed a green, it seemed as though I had the same shot -- a downhill lie, unable to get the ball in the air, and no room to stop the ball on the green."
Still, Inman, 29, and a six-year tour veteran, executed that shot well enough to save par at No. 9, his final hole, and get a needed boost in confidence.
"I had just bogeyed 7 and 8, and I certainly didn't want to finish with three in a row," he said of a chip shot that he hit into the bank at the side of the green, and the ball jumped up and rolled down to four feet above the hole. The putt went into the heart of the cup.
The hole-in-one was at the 202-yard No. 3, where the tee was up, as opposed to Thursday, where the tee was back (238 yards) and Inman had hit a driver and chipped a 9-iron shot into the hole for birdie.
This time, after watching his playing partners come up short, he hit a solid 4-iron shot. "It was downhill and downwind," he said, adding: "You just want to hit the green. The ball hit the green and started rolling. I heard somebody say, 'Turn left,' and the ball disappeared."
It was his third hole-in-one, following one at the Sunnehanna Amateur tournament in Johnstown, Pa., in 1982, and another at the U.S. Open last year.
Inman comes by his golf prowess naturally, for brother Joe, 15 years older, is a former tour standout (he won the Kemper Open in 1976), and took John in tow. "All he wanted me to do was chip and putt. He said I could beat a lot of people if I could consistently get up-and-down from around the greens."
John, a one-time Atlantic Coast Conference titlist, won the NCAA title in 1964, his senior year at the University of North Carolina, and later added the Western Amateur to his collection. As a professional, he won at Chattanooga in 1987, but modest success in 1990 and 1991 sent him back to successive qualifying schools. Each time, he qualified for the next season.
It has been more of the same this year, but a high finish today will send him past $100,000, and likely jump him about 30 places from his current No. 101 on the money list ($68,920).
"I've made the cut in 10 of 14 tournaments, but it's usually been right around the cut number. I've played solid, but I need to do better."
Chesapeake Cup: A field of 14 two-man teams, featuring some the best mid-amateur golfers in the country, will compete in the second annual Chesapeake Cup, June 6-7, at Caves Valley Golf Club. Among the entries are former U.S. Amateur champions Vinny Giles, Fred Ridley, and Jay Sigel.
Others include the host-club pairing of Henry Blue-Brooks Carey, and the Washington team of Richard Holland-Marty West III. The field also lists teams from Florida, Illinois and California.
The format calls for four-ball play Saturday and Sunday mornings, and alternate shot Saturday afternoon.
Defending champ: Andrea Kraus of Woodholme Country Club will be the defending champion when the Women's Metropolitan tournament begins five days of play tomorrow at Chartwell CC. The event has drawn a field of 72 players.
The schedule: Tomorrow--Women's Metropolitan, Chartwell CC, a.m. Tuesday--Women's Metropolitan, CC Maryland, 8 a.m.; Middle Atlantic PGA/Capital Centre pro-celebrity tournament, Glenn Dale GC, 1 p.m. Wednesday--Women's Metropolitan, Woodholme CC, 8 a.m.; USGA Women's Public Links qualifying, Springfield, Va., G&CC;, 8 a.m. Thursday--Women's Metropolitan, Hunt Valley GC, 8 a.m. Friday--Women's Metropolitan, Chartwell CC, 8 a.m.; Middle Atlantic PGA pro-am, Loudoun CC, Nokesville, Va., 8 a.m. Saturday--Chesapeake Cup, Caves Valley 8 a.m. Sunday--Chesapeake Cup, Caves Valley GC, 8 a.m.