It was Andy Bean, a 23-year-old Florida pro of little fame hereto, whose name led all the rest when the 156 scores were posted in today's first round of the $200,000 Doral Open. He threaded his way between Doral's intrusive lakes and lurking sand traps to throw a winning 67 at his elders.
Bean is in his second year on the tour, never finished better than 17th in a major tournament, is a self-describeed "big hitter" who averages 275 on his drives, and has learned, he says, to lick a hot temper that "used to get me in trouble on the golf course."
He was out in front of Miller Barber, Leonard Thompson and Bob Erickson, by one stroke, after whacking five strokes off par on a day Jack Nicklaus was at even par 72 along with defending champion Hubert Green.
"I played golf," said Nicklaus. "I hit some bad drives and some bad iron shots, and some bad putts. I'd say I mixed 'em up."
Bean did it best at Doral today, defeating not only the big yardage and the lakes and the traps, but he was not unnerved by the constant jet traffic overhead from the busy Miami airport nearby. He ignored the frequent sonic booms to sink two 20-foot putts and two 12-footers. He teamed the outgoing nine of Doral's Blue Monster with 32.
"I never played this well before," he said. "I've been learning more patience. Like on No. 10. I put my drive in the water. Last year I'd a-got hot and taken a double bogey. But I came back today a par the hole. When I got down from 20 feet to birdie the next one, I knew I was a better golfer than I was last year."
Bean's pace-setting round was being stroked for the greater glory of the University of Florida, whose other golfing graduate of 1975, won last week's Citrus Open. "Gary Koch was my teammate on the U. of Florida team," Bean said.
At 210, he said, "I'm big enough to play good golf. I know I'm tough enough and strong enough. And I was smart enough not to play football."
At Lakeland, Fla., high school, Bean gave up football after his sophomore year. "I had golf in mind. It was that simple," he explained. The golf he had in mind today was good enough to give him a clear two-stroke lead over the field, had he not chipped atrociously from 20 feet on no. 18 and left himself a 25'foot putt and bogey.
Until Bean came along with his 67 late in the day, the first day's sensation was Leonard Thompson, 30-year-old North Carolina pro who threw 33-35 at the early leaders to tie for second place. Thompson weighed in at a svelt for him, 210, after getting a passing mark from Waight Watchers, who brought him down from 230.
"At one point," said the 30-year-old Thompson, "I skidded down to 130 pounds, but I couldn't play golf at that weight. I was going broke, so I began to eat everythin in sight, and now 210 suits me just right." He had four birides and one bogey in his assault on par.
Jack Nicklaus is in the running with 37-35, five strokes off the lead, mostly because he is Jack Nicklaus and there are three more days to play. Asked if he liked his position, Nicklaus said, "No." He indicated that the position he likes is out in front, with the rest trying to catch him.
"The wind bothered me, but it shouldn't have," said Nicklaus, who has battled the Doral winds for years and won the tournament in 1975. "I didn't play well. I hit too many bad shots." He said he was most proud of, of all things, his bogey five on the ninth. He donned foul weather gear, top and bottom, strode into the lake near the green, hit a ball that was four inches under water, got it on to the green, and down in two putts.