Kemper champ is lying in Waite


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Grant Waite, the New Zealander who edged Tom Kite at the finish for the Kemper Open title last year, will be back defending when the PGA Tour plays Avenel in Potomac June 2-5. Also committed are Payne Stewart, who had a dozen top 10 finishes last year, Curtis Strange, Scott Simpson and area favorite Fred Funk.

* Pernell Whitaker, the World Boxing Council welterweight champ who seems to fight only about once a year, makes a mandatory title defense on HBO Saturday night against Santos Cardona, who gets the shot because top challenger Yori Boy Campas said he didn't want to fight Whitaker. The unbeaten former Olympic champion doesn't give Cardona much chance, explaining, "He'll be like everyone else I've fought, easy. Fights are only as hard as you make them, and I leave nothing to chance. It'll be another day at the office." No one has yet accused "Sweetpea" of over-hyping his bouts.

* "Sellout" Susan O'Malley, the P.T. Barnum of USAir Arena, has hit upon another dynamite idea to accompany the Washington-Cleveland Cavaliers game tomorrow night: a wedding. "This is a great event. We are always looking for new and fun ways to entertain our fans," she says, no doubt forgetting that weddings and sports events have gone hand in hand for about a century. The "lucky" couple was still being sought early this week and, if none is available, there's a rumor single Sue will volunteer just to make sure the promotion works.

* Folks calling the shots at the New York Post obviously are guided by the principle that he who hesitates is lost. No sooner did both the Yankees and Mets win on Opening Day when the paper clarioned: "Pennant Fever Grips City. . . . Subway Series would be first since 1956!!! . . . Magic Number stands at 162 for both NY ball teams." Besides the rest of the 162-game schedule, of course, there's a five-game playoff followed by a seven-game playoff before a pennant can be claimed and plans for a Bronx-Queens showdown completed. Might as well get started early, though.

* Will Clark on playing his first game in Yankee Stadium: "You think about standing at first base on the same patch of dirt that Lou Gehrig stood on. And you hit from the same batter's box that Babe Ruth hit from."

But Will's a realist, too: "From a player's standpoint, the ballpark is a neat place to play. But you come in knowing you're going to be called every name in the book. It's just something you have to get used to."

* They were disappointed when only 14,376 showed up to watch the Brewers hammer the Tigers, 8-3, at RFK Stadium the other day. Hey, come on, it was only an exhibition game on a Babe Ruth League field and it's not as though there's not enough baseball around to watch.

* From the how soon they forget department: At a recent Bullets game, one of the ballboys was instructed to make sure Hall of Famers Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn had water at their Boston Celtics broadcasting position. The kid replied, "Who are they?"

* Evers Burns (Woodlawn and Maryland) is off to a slow start playing in the Italian League A2 for Cagiva Group Varese, averaging 9.5 points in his first five games. . . . Meanwhile, Anicet Lavodrama, an all-timer on the name team, is averaging 12 points playing for Baloncesto DAR in the Spanish League.

* To commemorate years of watching Washington Capitals games at USAir Arena (nee Capital Centre), I'm writing a book entitled, "20 Years in the Dark (and in a bad seat)."

* New York Rangers coach Mike Keenan has a worthwhile suggestion concerning the regular-season champion of the NHL: five home games instead of four in the first round of the playoffs. Forget that Keenan's team is about to finish first overall, it's only fair that a team that performs over an endless 84-game schedule be granted more of an advantage over a .500 team that sneaks into postseason play the last week of the season. In fact, play the whole series in Gotham.

The Capitals, who figure to oppose Pittsburgh, the likely Northeast Division champs, probably wouldn't complain about losing home games from an artistic viewpoint. They have a 15-15-9 record on their ice.

* Ah, the Masters. Sure to come up for considerable discussion during the annual pilgrimage to Augusta National this week is Chip Beck's laying up on the 15th hole last year while trailing eventual winner Bernhard Langer by three shots the final day. Beck had 236 yards to carry the water, wind in his face and a fair lie, but one that was likely to produce a high shot robbing him of distance. Besides, earlier in the tournament, he was 10 yards ahead of where he was Sunday and, with not as strong a head wind, failed to make it to the green.

Oh well, it's fun to argue the strategy anyway.

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