Brian Staveley, the teaching pro at Bowie Golf and Country Club, came into his first PGA Tour tournament with two small goals: making the leader board and appearing on the weekend's national television coverage.
He accomplished the first yesterday, with a one-under-par 71, helped by a total of 25 putts, the first a 20-footer for birdie that helped relieve his nervousness on the first hole he played. The 71 tied Staveley for the third-best score among the morning players in the Kemper Open.
"It was a good feeling," he said, when he looked at a leader board at Congressional Country Club and saw his last name in big, block red letters along with those of such tour stars as Craig Stadler, Tom Kite and Andy Bean.
Staveley, 28, one of the top three players in the Middle Atlantic section of the PGA, is confident he can accomplish his second goal here, even though he has failed six times to earn his tour card at qualifying school. After getting here as co-medalist in Tuesday's local qualifying, Staveley said he erased the names from his lesson book at Bowie for the rest of the week.
"I've paid my dues enough times that for once my game will come through for me," he said. "I think I can play with these guys. I've played (in the minitours) with half the young guys on the tour. If I can stay out here a while, I can play right with them. I just have to get out here and get comfortable."
He has been comfortable on the Middle Atlantic circuit, winning 11 tournaments since 1981, after recovering from a hip broken in a car crash that sidelined him for eight months. Those victories, some by as many as three strokes, included a course record 62 at Allview and 63 at Indian Spring.
Yet, at tour qualifying schools, he missed making the final school by six strokes in last year's regionals. In his closest effort at gaining a tour card, he shot 79 the final day three years ago at Huntsville, Tex., and missed by three shots. "It is getting expensive," Staveley said yesterday.
Starting on the back nine at Congressional, Staveley one-putted his first six holes. The first putt settled his nerves and the fourth, from two feet after a five-wood approach shot, got him rolling with a birdie on the difficult 445-yard 13th. "I was rolling in a forward progression from there," he said.
Despite the course's 7,173 yards, Staveley used a more lofted driver, sacrificing distance for accuracy. "I think I can hold my own on a long course," he said. "It's just managing the golf course. You can't go to sleep on it."
But he is confident he'll be on television Saturday. "If I can use 25 putts every round," he said, "I'll be okay."
Asked what odds he would place on himself winning the tournament, he said, "They have to be kind of high right now. But I don't want to sell myself short. I'd say 10 to 1."