Stephen Ames, still rusty after missing nearly six months on the PGA Tour because of visa problems, shot a 6-under-par 65 yesterday for a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick Classic in Harrison, N.Y.

Ames needed only 24 putts in a seven-birdie, one-bogey round at the Westchester Country Club. He led Frank Nobilo by one stroke and Jim Carter by two.

Ames was 83rd in earnings last season and had seven top 25 finishes. But his visa to enter the United States expired last year and he had not played in a tournament of any kind since last November's Australian Open.

Ames's lawyer finally secured the 35-year-old Trinidad native's visa to re-enter the United States in time for the Kemper Open in late May. He made the cut in that event and at Memphis in June. His earnings for the year are only $12,800.

"The hardest thing, of course, was basically to get the mind back into it," he said. "I think that was tough the first two weeks that I have played. This week was a little easier."

Ames was a two-time winner from 1993 to '97 on the European PGA Tour, where he was forced to play after his visa problems began in 1992. While trying to enter the United States from Canada that year, he told immigration officials he was an American citizen. He later acknowledged misrepresenting himself.

SENIORS: An eagle that was almost a double eagle helped Larry Nelson tie Australian Graham Marsh for the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship in Dearborn, Mich.

Both opened at 6-under-par 66 over the TPC of Michigan, one stroke better than Hale Irwin. Nelson, 51, seeking his second victory this season on the senior circuit, was 238 yards out when he hit a 5-wood from the fairway of No. 13, a 506-yard, par-5. The ball landed on the front of the green, then curled around the upper shelf, making a U-turn toward the cup.

As the ball continued to roll, it appeared dead in -- until stopping about a foot from the pin.

"From where I was, I should have made four there," Nelson said. "Clearly, the three was a little extra bonus."

PGA CLUB PROFESSIONAL: Rick Schuller of Leesburg was tied for the lead after shooting a 2-under-par 70 at the first round of the 32nd PGA Club Professional Championship in Haven, Wis. Seven other golfers were tied with Schuller.