Coleman Plecker, the pro at Towson Golf and Country Club, made his first competitive round of the year a career best yesterday, hitting every green in regulation at Germantown Country Club and shooting a four-under-par 66 to lead qualifying for four spots in the Kemper Open.
Bob Bilbo, head pro at Montgomery Villiage, earned the second spot with par 70. Fred Gibson of the host club and Dave Zink of Kenwood won the other two places in a five-way playoff that ended in a massive controversy.
The conflict arose when Gibson's wedge approach on the first extra hole stopped in the fringe behind the green. Winter rules were in effect and, under Middle Atlantic PGA bylaws, tournament referee Bob McCullum allowed Gibson to place his ball on the green, within a club length of where it was.
Gibson then sank a curling downhill 30-footer. Both Tom Smack, who was eliminated when he three-putted the first playoff hole, and Al Green, who lost to Zink's par on the second extra hole, protested. (Mike Felker, the fifth man who shot 71 and made the playoff, also three-putted the first extra hole and was eliminated.)
The problem arose because the rules of golf do not cover preferred lies, or winter rules. Each situation is governed by local rules. Smack and Green contended that the local rule passed out on the first tee stated, "Set up ball in your own fairway one club length."
At the time Gibson asked McCullum for a ruling, the rules interpreter told the host pro: "I don't feel it's proper, but your bylaws don't prohibit it."
Green was perplexed.
"You're going to allow him to move it from the fairway onto the putting surface?" Green asked as he sat at a table writting out a $100 check and filling in an entry blank for next Tuesday's qualifying at Germantown for four more spots into the May 29 -- June 1 Kemper at Congressional Country Club.
Even though a number of former tour players were in the field, all four players who qualified yesterday will be playing in their first PGA tour event. Germantown plays only 6,195 yards from the championship tees, but it is a treacherous layout for those who cannot control their tee balls and their putts. Only nine players finished within three shots of par.
The acrimony at the finish was completely opposite from the mood after Plecker and Bilbo, both early starters, completed their rounds.
"I will be nervous," said the left-handed Bilbo, looking ahead to the Kemper. "I don't care if I shoot 90; I just wanted to make it."
Plecker played in few pro-ams last year and yesterday marked his first competitive round of the year because "I wait for good weather to start. I'm a fair-weather player."
Yesterday, the tall (6-foot-5) but relatively short hitter put most of his drives in perfect position. He made five birdies, the putts ranging from six inches to 20 feet, and three-putted only once -- a major accomplishment considering pin placements.
For instance, Herb Rose, one of the section's better players, four-putted the first green. Both Smack and Felker three-putted it in the playoff.