Chuck Thorpe always has played well at the Capital City Open, establishing himself as one of the perennial favorites. Yesterday was no exception, as Thorpe shot a 2-under-par 69 to take a two-stroke lead in the 39th annual stroke play tournament at Lake Arbor Golf Club in Mitchellville.

Thorpe, from Brandon, Fla., was the only golfer in the field of 173 professionals and amateurs to shoot below par on the 6,359-yard course.

Manny Mullins of Temple Hills was alone in second place, finishing at even-par 71.

Thorpe began playing in the Capital City Open in the 1970s and has continued making it a stop on his schedule. Besides the chance to catch up with his Washington-area friends, Thorpe has enjoyed a great deal of success here.

He has won the tournament three times and the senior professional flight the past two years.

"I just wish more black players would come and support these tournaments," said Thorpe, 56.

"I look forward to coming to Washington to play in this tournament."

The Capital City Open, which has a $20,000 purse, is the oldest minority-run golf tournament in the Washington area. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Metro Junior Golf Program. The tournament is usually held at Langston Golf Club in Northeast Washington, but that course is undergoing renovation and not expected to re-open until next year.

The greens at Lake Arbor were particularly hard and unforgiving yesterday. The large field, which was divided into foursomes, and high scores made most rounds last six hours. Scores in the 90s and 100s were not uncommon.

Thorpe had three birdies and a bogey on the front nine to make the turn at 2 under. He had one birdie and one bogey on the back nine.

Thorpe has played especially well lately. Two weeks ago he won a senior tournament in Carbondale, Ill. On Monday, he will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open at Woodmore.

"I was trying to get off to a good start today," Thorpe said. "I didn't know how strong the field was going to be."