Al Green, who spent a year as Langston golf course's pro, used his local knowledge for a six-under-par 66 and a one-stroke lead over George Wallace in yesterday's first round of the 10th annual Lee Elder Celebrity Pro-Am.
It was Green's best round ever at Langston.
Wallace, who plays cross-handed and is counted among a vanishing breed of pros who earn more in bets than prize money, played early in the morning. After scrambling for pars on the final two holes to finish a bogeyless 33 34 -- 67, he predicted, "I think the round will stand up."
Although Lee Elder and his wife have improved the course considerably since they took it over, the rough conditions still were the biggest obstacles for the pros, including several PGA Tour players and former players.
Wallace knew that and so did Green, a public relations man for Anheuser-Busch, a tournament sponsor.
Green hit all greens in regulation and made rutts ranging from 10 inches to 20 feet in a 32-34 round.
"I won my first tournament here as an amateur, the Capital City Open, in 1962," said Green, who still plays the Middle Atlantic PGA circuit. "I play the course a lot. This is home for me. My biggest problem coming up here is that I'm so tied up shaking hands I forget about the golf."
So, he came to Langston and played a couple of nine-hole practice rounds this week, so he could concentrate on golf.
The players the leaders probably fear most going into Sunday's final 18 are Bruce Devlin, touring pro from Australia who shot 68 yesterday, and Calvin Peete, the defending champion, who is returning from a shoulder injury. He shot 70.
Also scheduled to play today is comedian Bob Hope, who will play with Elder in a special celebrity foursome around 1:30 p.m.
Wallace, 45, a man with a constant smile, swings a club so unconventionally that Bill Mayhugh, local disc jockey and one of Wallace's amateur partners, couldn't stand to watch.
"I had to turn away when he swung," said Mayhugh, a 14 handicapper." I can't stand to look at him when he plays.
"Not only does he play cross-handed, he twirls the club around in his hand before he starts his backswing."
Wallace, of Atlanta, began swinging cross-handed when he took up the game at age 12. He was successful so he didn't change. It also doesn't hurt when he is making a wagering match on the first tee.
His swing was nearly unerring yesterday. He hit the first 16 greens in regulation, making five birdie putts of four feet or less and missing three six-footers for birdies. His best shot was a wedge recovering from six-inch deep rough near the Anacostia River on the left of the 421-yard 17th hole, helping him save par.
Wallace travels the country playing the United Golf Association Tour (the black circuit where Elder got his start) and Anssau matches. He said he once played a $30,000 Nassau in Las Vegas with someone else putting up the money.
"You can make a damn good living," he said.
"I never kept up with it," he replied. "I'm a good money player."