Through this morning, it looked as if Dirk Schultz's course-record 65 was going to give him a commanding lead after the first round of the Maryland Open at Hillendale Country Club.

But newly crowned Washington Metropolitan Golf Association men's amateur champion Mike Mitchell was not finished with his run of great golf just yet. He made seven birdies and one bogey to trail Schultz by one stroke with a 6-under-par 66.

Schultz's 7-under 65 was posted before more than one-third of the field of 147 golfers teed off -- sending many with afternoon tee times away from the leader board shaking their heads. Schultz was three shots ahead of defending champion Keith Unikel (68), a University of Maryland senior, as the field was cut to 80 and ties at 77. The second round of the 54-hole stroke-play championship begins Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Oddly enough for Schultz, who has played well throughout the 1999 season, it was a poor shot that gave him the start he needed.

"If you had seen me off [the par-5 first hole] you'd have thought I was on my way to a 110," said Schultz, who was a local qualifier for the 1999 Kemper Open and the professional on the winning Beaver Creek team in the Maryland State Team Championships. "I was 80 yards left off the tee, pushed a seven-iron almost into the trees on the other side, hit a middle wedge to 12 feet, made the birdie putt and came off the green with a giggle."

He birdied two of the next three holes and No. 8, one of the four par 5s he birdied yesterday, to finish at 4-under 32 on the front. He made his only bogey of the day on No. 10, but finished by birdieing five of the last six holes.

Shultz, a Hagerstown native, did not start playing competitive golf until his college basketball career at Shippensburg (Pa.) College was complete. Two years later, in 1989, the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder finished fourth in the National Long-Drive competition. He turned professional in 1991, finished third in the Long-Drive in 1992 and hit the Florida mini-tours in 1995.

He returned to become the head pro at Beaver Creek two years ago, and has been a regular at the major Middle Atlantic PGA tournaments and other competitions open to local professionals. Last year, he finished tied for 11th in the Maryland Open.

As the leader, Shultz does not plan to change the style that has been so successful for him in 1999. "I just have to keep attacking the course and try to make birdies," he said. "I'd rather screw up going for it than try and hang back."

Scores on Page D8