POWAY — Even the most imaginative script writer would have to struggle to top the tale of Robin Walton's climb to the head of the class Thursday in the Inamori Classic at StoneRidge.
In Walton's own words, "It was an unbelievable, coincidental, you'll-never-believe-it-in-a-million-years story."
En route to a three-under-par 69 that put her in a first-place tie with Marsha Foyer and Caroline Keggi, Walton lost a contact lens on the fifth fairway. What happened after that was no less than mind-boggling.
Walton had left her backup contacts in the house at which she is staying with James and Sonya McMunn. As luck would have it, the McMunn house is located between the fourth and fifth holes, so Walton took off in a sprint and picked up the spares with a minimum of lost time.
"I wasn't gone more than three or four minutes," she said. "I ran all the way. Some people offered me a ride, but we're not allowed to ride, so I said, 'I can't. Sorry.' I hope they didn't think I was rude.
"We looked for (the lens) about 15 minutes (with playing partners were Jane Crafter and Sue Ertl), but we had to go on."
And the story didn't end there. Immediately upon completing her round, Walton returned to the fifth fairway to resume the search.
"I had to go right back," she said. "Once the lawnmowers got out there, the lens would have been history."
By that time, everybody else had finished the fifth hole, and glory be, the lens was found.
"We blocked out an area six or seven feet long and two or three feet wide," Walton said. "Actually, we narrowed it down to a space that was no more than one foot by two feet, because I'd lost it after my drive and we knew it was about 200 yards down the fairway. It took us a half hour or 45 minutes, but there it was."
The mystery of the missing lens stemmed from a strong wind that blew dust into Walton's face. When she got down on one knee to do a cleaning job, one of the lenses dropped out of her hand.
"If I hadn't been able to get another lens, I would have used the right one in my left eye," she said. "I've done it before, and it has worked out pretty well because my left eye is my dominant eye."
Walton had six birdies and three bogeys, and was five under par--a status no other golfer reached all day--before taking successive bogeys on 15 and 16.
While the other co-leaders can't match the bizarre saga of Walton's opening round, the three women do have one thing in common. None has won an LPGA tournament.
Walton, 35, from Scottsdale, Ariz., is the veteran of the lot, having been on the tour since 1979. Foyer, 26, from Atlanta, joined the pro ranks in 1987. Keggi, 26, from Middlebury, Conn., is in her third season.
A group of five golfers finished the day a stroke behind at 70. One of them, power-hitting Laura Davies, did it without using a wood. The others were Judy Dickinson, Tina Barrett, Shelley Hamlin and Judi Povin.
Eleven players tied at 71 and 13 more at par 72. Among the 71s was Ayako Okamoto, who won the tournament in 1987 and 1988. Among the 72s was Deedee Lasker of San Diego, who like the trio at the top, is looking for her first tour victory.
Kris Monaghan, the defending champion, put herself in a hole by shooting a 76.
Walton and Keggi have been runners-up twice each in their careers, and Foyer's best finish has been a third.