Rodney Lathern of Bladensburg was the model of consistency as he shot one-under-par 70 on his home Newbridge course for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the 54-hole Washington Area Amateur Champions tournament yesterday.

Lathern, 19, a sophomore at South Carolina State, hit 14 greens in regulation and made 17 pars. His only birdie came at the 13th hole, where he sank a 40-foot putt.

"I was just trying to get it close and make par, but the ball went into the hole," said Lathern, who took up golf six years ago. "I've been playing well with a few breakdowns near the end of the round. Today there were no breakdowns."

Lathern said he thought it was going to be a long day when he popped up his opening drive against the wind and the ball went about 200 yards. But then he knocked his 3-iron second shot onto the green, made par and was on his way.

Defending champion Kim Dickerson of St. Charles, Md., and two-time champion Dave King of Bethesda each double-bogeyed the 12th hole and shot 72.

Dickerson, 29, who manages Whites Plains Park and golf course, took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker at the par-4 12th hole and took six. "I'm very happy with 72 after that double bogey," Dickerson said.

Barry McCarty of Belle Haven, another two-time winner, said the 73 he shot could have been a lot higher if he hadn't been putting well.