POTOMAC - Lee Porter, a golfing nomad for most of the past 10 years, and with only minimal success on this year's PGA Tour, shot to the top of the leader board early in the first round of the Kemper Insurance Open yesterday. At the finish, his 66 was still just one shot off the lead of Chris DiMarco, Stuart Appelby and J. J. Henry.
Not bad for a player who had missed the cut in five of his past seven events, had only one round in the 60s (69) in that span, and had back spasms Wednesday that put any play in doubt. Yet the performance was not a complete surprise to Porter, 34, who spent last year on the Buy.com Tour and then made it here via the fall qualifying school.
Last week, he spent some time with his teacher, Jim Suttie, in Chicago and felt as though some changes were beginning to work.
He said he needed the lesson because, "I've been hitting the ball awful. I don't think I hit more than nine greens in about six weeks coming here. We were able to key on something I had been doing - getting the club going outside - and we focused on why that was happening.
"I've still got some work to do, but in practicing this week, I was really pleased with the way I was hitting the ball. And it seemed like it was easy again, and I was hitting the shots, hitting the ball where I was aiming instead of aiming and swinging and hoping it goes there."
The result was a round of six birdies and a closing bogey. At the 18th, he hit a bad iron shot right, the only green he missed, and failed to get up and down.
As for the spasms, "I have a muscle in the lower left side of my back that's been in spasm for awhile. I spent four hours in the [fitness] trailer Tuesday afternoon, and two more Wednesday, along with some heat and stretching. It's gotten progressively better each day.
"Yes, it was sore during the round, but it didn't hurt much until after the shot. Since it has been getting better, hopefully I won't have any discomfort at all."
Hammond, Wood juggling
Donnie Hammond, the Frederick native who has played in every Kemper since 1983, and Willie Wood, who has played in 11 since 1984, are two of several players competing on this tour (both are nonexempt) and on the Buy.com Tour.
This is Hammond's fifth PGA Tour start this year, and he made the cut in the previous four, worth $66,000. Here, his opening 71 included five birdies and five bogeys. "A typical round - too many mistakes," he said. "It was a perfect day. I putted beautifully, but had a bad shot here and there.
"With the tours, it's confusing, figuring out where to play. I'll probably play 10-11 events the rest of the year. It used to be you looked forward to being off for several weeks. Now, I look forward to playing five in a row."
Wood, who shuttled between the big tour and the Buy.com last year, is doing it again. He has earned $21,000 in five starts on the junior circuit and $71,000 in three PGA Tour starts.
"It's not fun at all," he said of the uncertain life. "You get to Sunday night, and you don't know if or where you'll be playing. I was an alternate here, and did not get in until Tuesday. The dot-com keeps you competitive, but it's not the same."
He will play a dot-com event in Scranton, Pa., next week, and will be back on the big tour the week after in Memphis, Tenn., along with trying to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Schultze gets scare
Just after finishing his round of 75, Dirk Schultze - the Middle Atlantic PGA Player of the Year for 2000 - rushed to the side of his father, Rick, who had had a diabetic attack.
"It's the second year he has had one here, and his third overall," said Schultze, the head pro at Beaver Creek County Club in Hagerstown. "He doesn't take good care of himself. He had breakfast but hasn't eaten since, and it's 2 o'clock."
After medical attention, the elder Schultze was revived enough to say, "I feel fine. That's over."
Funk putts poorly
Fred Funk, who has made a habit of not playing well in his hometown, was better than in some years, shooting par 71. He started on No. 10, got to 2-under by the turn, then made seven pars and two bogeys on the front.
"One year, I putted well, but this was like some others - my putting was horrendous," he said. The year he putted well, 1998, he led after three rounds, closed with 72, and finished tied for third.