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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Focused Beem Leads in Kemper

May 28, 1999| From Associated Press

Rich Beem, whose biggest golfing moments have come in towns such as Socorro and Truth or Consequences, shook off the jitters Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Kemper Open at Potomac, Md.

Beem, who quit the game temporarily four years ago to sell cellular phones and stereos, and spent last year toiling in minor tournaments in New Mexico and west Texas, combined wayward shots into hazards with seven birdies to card a five-under-par 66.

"I got a little bit nervous in between some shots, but I just kind of kept my focus," he said. "I know this is only one day. I am sure if I am in the same situation come Sunday, I will probably get a little more tense out there."

Corey Pavin, close to regaining the form that made him one of the best in the world for the first half of the decade, sank a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to finish tied for second with a 67.

The former UCLA player is tied with Bill Glasson and Brian Watts. A 40-yard chip for an eagle at the par-five 13th was the big shot for Watts, last year's come-out-of-nowhere player at the British Open.

But Beem is even more anonymous. No one in the PGA Tour media guide has a biography shorter than that of the 28-year-old El Paso resident who never played a PGA Tour event or even a Nike Tour event before this year.

Beem got a spot on this year's PGA Tour when he shot a final-round 66 to finish ninth at qualifying school. That capped a year of modest success in the Sun Country PGA Section, where he remembers doing well in a pro-am at Truth or Consequences, N.M., and got his all-time biggest winner's paycheck--$5,000 and a "nice crystal bowl"--for winning the Hilton Open at Socorro, N.M.

"This is different," said Beem, sitting in the plush green chair reserved for those who finish high on the leaderboard. "I'm used to having a little stool to sit on. I usually just sit around and say bad things about my round."

Until Thursday, Beem's debut year on the tour wasn't anything to brag about. He has missed seven of 11 cuts, including five in a row, and has made $24,590--$410 less than he made in the one shining moment at qualifying school.

"My passion is my car," Beem said. "I have a Ford Explorer and I love the music in it. This is kind of what I am out here to do, make enough money so I can dump more of it into my truck."

But at least he isn't sleeping in it, as he had to do in previous years when money was tight.

"I don't ever want to do that again," Beem said. "Even if I go absolutely broke and I don't make another cut, I am going to have fun."

Scott Dunlap certainly had fun. Even for his round, Dunlap got to three under in a hurry when he made only the third double eagle in Kemper Open history, holing his three-iron second shot from 218 yards on No. 6. He finished at three under.

*

Nobody will run away from the Corning Classic field this time, if the opening round is any indication.

Tammie Green shattered the course record last year, but was not among the leaders at Corning, N.Y.

Former Corning and LPGA champion Sherri Turner, Denise Killeen, Stephanie Lowe and Kathryn Marshall navigated the short and narrow 6,062-yard par-72 Corning Country Club course to shoot 67s.

Defending champion Green, who had a 20-under four-day total of 268 in 1998, fell victim to a strong wind and opened with a 74. Betsy King, the all-time earnings leader, faded to 70 after a 32 on the front nine. Nancy Lopez shot a 73.

Mitzi Edge, Hiromi Kobayashi and Cathy Johnston-Forbes were at 68. Mi Hyun Kim and Kelli Kuehne were another shot behind.

Turner overcame three bogeys with eight birdies. She bogeyed the first hole, a 402-yard par four.

"No. 1 is probably one of the most difficult starting holes that we have on our tour, so a bogey there is OK," said Turner, 42, who won the Corning Classic and the LPGA Championship in 1988.

Killeen's eagle on No. 5 erased a pair of bogeys. She threw in five birdies for a share of the lead. "It was an up-and-down 67, that's for sure," she said.

Killeen, 37, hit a seven-wood to 25 feet from the pin and putted for the eagle on No. 5, a 449-yard par five. She was at six under with a birdie on No. 12 but a drive into the woods on the par-four No. 13 left her with a bogey.

Lowe, a 34-year-old native of Chester, England, offset bogeys on Nos. 11 and 1 with aggressive play and strong, low drives that led to seven birdies.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

In Front

Leaders through Thursday's play (Complete scores, Page 15):

KEMPER OPEN--Par 71

Rich Beem: 34-32--66 -5

Corey Pavin: 33-34--67 -4

Brian Watts: 33-34--67 -4

Bill Glasson: 35-32--67 -4

Five tied at -3

CORNING CLASSIC--Par 72

Sherri Turner: 32-35--67 -5

Stephanie Lowe: 34-33--67 -5

Kathryn Marshall: 35-32--67 -5

Denise Killeen: 33-34--67 -5

Hiromi Kobayashi: 31-37--68 -4

Cathy Johnston-Forbes: 31-37--68 -4

Mitzi Edge: 33-35--68 -4

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