Congressional's firm, fast greens are causing the pros to curse and look for assistance from the heavens, but they are Bill Black's babies.
Black is the harmless-looking, bespectacled fellow Congressional hired as greens and grounds manager in February. He previously was greenskeeper at Fountain Head in Hagerstown.
"These greens are exactly the way I want them, cut to 5 thirty-secondths of an inch," Black said. "They are down from the quarter inch the members normally play."
"We want a firm, fast green like the U.S. Open," Black said. "A player has to hit a good shot with a lot of backspin to hold the greens here. If he hits a shot from the short grass in the fairway, he can spin it. If he hits a shot from the rough, the ball cannot hold the green."
Black heard some player complain that the grass was dying on the concrete-like greens on the fourth and 10th holes. He inspected them and reported that, no, the greens are alive and well, nowhere near death.
Each green was watered for 15 minutes Thursday night. Some players here might think a water pistol was used. "Too much water gives you a soft, succulent, weak grass. Less water makes the grass sturdier," Black explained.
Many spectators here wear hats emblazoned with the name of their club. One had a hat enscribed "Jack Daniels Country Club." He looked like a charter member.
A female caddie has appeared in a PGA event at Congressional for the first time in the person of Pam Shuttleworth, the regular tour caddie of pro Dana Quigley.
Bob Betley and his wife, Jane, usually work in tandem, traveling in a motor home, but Jane -- the caddie passed up the Kemper while Bob competes.
"When the tour begins the season, on the West Coast, the weather is pretty rainy sometimes," regular tour caddie George Carroll said. "Sometimes, those bags weigh up to 55 pounds with rain gear, stocking caps, long underwear, clubs and balls."
Carroll usually caddies for Lon Nielson but Nielson failed to make the Kemper field in Monday's qualifying, so Carroll is toting for contender John Cook.
Carroll said most regular tour caddies, except such established ones as Rabbit Dyer (Gary Player), Angelo Argea (Jack Nicklaus) and Bruce Edwards (Tom Watson), earn a salary of $150-$250 per week plus 3 to 6 percent of their golfer's winnings.
And if Cook should win the Kemper's $72,000 first-place check? "I'd be looking real good," said Carroll, smiling.
Area pros Fred Gibson, Wheeler Stewart, Ron Terry and former Maryland player Billy Calfee made the Kemper cut.
Calfee took bogey on the second and third holes, then played the next 15 in five under par to make the cut easily at 67-143.
Gibson, of Germantown, had 74 in Thursday's opening round.Yesterday, he opened by hitting into the water on the 10th hole for double bogey. He bogeyed on the 11th, then made 16 pars for 73-147, which qualified him not only for further Kemper play but next week's Atlanta Golf Classic.
Gibson said he was not fazed by his dismal start. "I just teed it up on the next hole and hit it. I hit it and chase it."
Terry, former Middle Atlantic PGA player now on the tour, was among the leaders after an opening 70. Terry, playing with Gibson, was wild off the tee and double-bogeyed the par-4 18th (his ninth) when his drive found trees. Terry three-putted the final hole for 77-147.
Stewart, the Congressional teaching pro, shot the back nine in par and barely made the cutoff, 73-148.
Former Langston pro Al Green three-putted three times on his final nine holes and missed the cut at 76-149.
Ed Fiori had a roller-coaster round of six birdies and three double bogeys and was less than tickled.
He threw his putter off the final green and jabbed his pencil into the canvas press tent.