Last year the word was that newly-crowned Kemper Open champion Tom Byrum celebrated his first PGA Tour victory so much that he missed his flight back to Dallas and was forced to miss a chance at qualifying for the U.S. Open there.

It also was reported that he did not return his Kemper courtesy car.

That did not sound like the doings of the quiet, Onida, S.D., native, and he said yesterday that was not the case.

"I got through with the press and turned in my courtesy car at about 8:30," recalled Byrum on the rainy practice tee, where he hit shots next to fellow Tour player and older brother Curt Byrum. "I had a 9:30 flight to Dallas. I was going to make the flight. My wife was tired, the baby was tired and I was tired.

"I had a 7:30 tee-off time {the next morning} in Dallas to play 36 holes. I would have had about 5 1/2 hours of sleep. I just chose not to go. I decided I'd just won a tournament. It didn't seem like the priorities were right. I spent the night at a hotel near the airport."

Byrum, who later in the day gave a clinic for area youngsters, will not have to contemplate a long journey after defending his title in this Kemper. He is due to play in U.S. Open sectional qualifying at Woodmont in nearby Rockville on Monday, the day after the Kemper ends.

Of his Kemper win, Byrum said: "I finally did what I had been working hard to do. It really made my year. A slow year turned into a really good year." Byrum ended his fourth year on tour 32nd on the money list at $320,939.

He has done respectably this year, winning $92,361 and making the cut in eight of 17 tournaments.

Of his chances this week, Byrum said: "Sometimes I play better when I don't know how I'll play. I just want to have a good tournament."

First Time Around

Seve Ballesteros, the tournament's top attraction, will get his first look at the TPC at Avenel course when he plays in today's pro-am. Ballesteros, three-time British Open and two-time Masters champion, is due to tee off with his amateur partners at 8:48 a.m.

The Spaniard has practiced intensely in the rain the last two days, working his way through practically every club in the bag.

"I'm just warming up," he said after donning a floppy hat and rain gear and hitting balls for about three hours in the chilly rain.

Ballesteros said Monday he had good memories of this area after finishing second in the 1982 Kemper at nearby Congressional, which he said was one of the best U.S. courses he has played. . . .

Rain forced cancellation of yesterday's scheduled 10-player, $10,000 Merrill Lynch Shootout as well as practice. . . .

Mark McCumber, Gary Koch and Kenny Perry withdrew and were replaced by Dan Halldorson, John McComish and Bobby Clampett.