CHEVY CHASE - Dennis Winters, four times a runner-up in the tournament, broke free yesterday and won his first Men's Maryland Open here.
Winters, 39, had a slight advantage over the field in the 79th Open, conducted by the Maryland State Golf Association. Now head professional at Ocean City's Links at Lighthouse Sound, he had been an assistant pro at the host Columbia Country Club for three years, and his caddie has worked there for 20 years.
His ties with the course helped Winters win by one stroke, shooting even-par 70 in the final round.
Winters overcame new father Dirk Schultz's two-stroke lead to finish the tournament at even-par 210. He was consistent, shooting 70s for each of the three-day tournament's rounds on a course that became more difficult each day.
"This is an open-knowledge golf course," said Winters. "You're always hitting up to a green. There's not much roll out here."
After bogeying the first hole, Winters birdied Nos. 3, 7, 9, and 11, making a 12-foot putt on the ninth and a difficult 16-footer on 11. He parred out to wrap up his first Open.
"It's very special," said Winters, who had been second four times in the last seven Opens and always in the top five. "To win the Maryland Open on this course is special."
Schultz, head pro at Hagerstown's Beaver Creek Country Club and leader after two rounds, and Jack Skilling tied for second, each a stroke behind at 211 for the tournament, which opened Monday.
Schultz, whose wife gave birth to their first child Tuesday, also lost last year's Open after leading the first two rounds. He shot a 3-over 73 yesterday.
Skilling, a former Maryland professional now at Fawn Lake Country Club near Fredericksburg, Va., was back at par, 70, yesterday after shooting a course-record 66 on Tuesday. His 5-over 75 in the first round was too much to overcome.
"Today, [the course] was set up a little more difficult. Pins were farther back," said Skilling. "Shooting even par, I felt I played as good as I could play. Dennis was 1-under on 15, and I was 2-over on 17. I birdied 17 but only made par on 18."
Winters, Schultz, and Skilling were grouped in the final round of last fall's Toyota Invitational, with Winters also emerging victorious in that tournament.
Wayne DeFrancesco, a professional at Woodholme Country Club, finished third, three strokes back at 213. Defending champ Mike Mitchell shot his worst round of the tournament, a 12-over 82, to finish at 226.
Pat Tallent had the day's low round, a 2-under 68, to finish as the low amateur at 215. Keith Unikel, the 1998 champion, was the second-low amateur at 218.
Leaders: Dennis Winters 210; Jack Skilling 211; Dirk Schultz 211; Wayne DeFrancesco 213; Ricky Touma 215; Bill Gombert 215; Pat Tallent 215; Mark Evenson 216; Steve Madsen 217; Keith Unikel 218; Adam Corson 218; David Hutsell 219; Russ Nielsen 219; Steve Castro 222; Tom Lewandowski 222; Ted Coon 223; Samuel Corden 223; Bob Bilbo 223; Bryan Koslosky 224; Allan Phillips 225; Robert Wallace 225; Matthew Sughrue 225; Martin West 225; Don Slebodnik 225; Steve Bosdosh 225; Peter McGrill 225; Michael Hudak 226; Ben Brundred 226; Michael Mitchell 226; Mark Spolarich 226; Eric Egloff 226; Fran Rhoads 227; Michael Gebhard 227; Chris Connolly 228; John McNaney 228; James Winner 229; Greg Bremer 229; Matt Tengwall 229; Buddy Sass 230; Steve Block 231; Charles Hong 231; Terry Burke 232.