Head pro Don Kramer approached what was once the 13th hole at Somerset Golf Club in Fredericksburg, Va., cautiously, both hands on the wheel of the sputtering golf cart.

Legend has it that a unit of Confederate soldiers experienced freak accidents while crossing the land during the Civil War. Others have reported supernatural occurrences on the 13th: groundskeepers struck by balls, rogue gophers snatching superb drives, rain falling on the hole while the rest of the course remained dry.

Concerned about mounting complaints and about some players' triskaidekaphobia--the fear of the No. 13--course officials have taken a bold step: They have eliminated the 13th hole.

"Hopefully, that will do the job," Kramer said, pointing to a paper "14" taped over the "13" on a sign near the tee. The succeeding holes have been renumbered so golfers will now play through the 19th hole.

Judy Thompson, a spokeswoman for the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter, Fla., said that, as far as she knows, Somerset is the first golf course in the country to eliminate the 13th hole. To commemorate the change, the golf course planned to hold a Triskaidekaphobia Open today, Friday the 13th. . . .

Aki Takamura birdied five straight holes and Iben Tinning survived a double-bogey 7 as the two outsiders carded 68s yesterday to share the first-round lead at the $1 million Women's British Open in Woburn, England.


Sedins to Stay in Sweden

The Vancouver Canucks will have to do without the highly touted twin-brother combo of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who announced that they will remain in Sweden this season.

Canucks President and General Manager Brian Burke was informed of the decision by their agent, Mike Barnett.

"The twins were honest about their desire to stay in Sweden from the start, and this is news our club expected," Burke said. "It was important for them to follow through on their commitments with MoDo [of the Swedish Elite League] for a number of reasons.

"We think they'll be improved players with one more year of experience. The other factor in their decision was school."

Burke said the 18-year-old Sedin brothers have yet to decide whether to attend the Canucks training camp next month. . . .

The Dallas Stars avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal with center Derek Plante, who got little playing time after being acquired just before the trading deadline. In other transactions after arbitration hearings this week, Buffalo Sabres forward Dixon Ward was awarded a one-year, $1.2 million contract; Nashville Predators forward Denny Lambert, who was seeking about $700,000, was awarded a one-year, $465,000 deal; Pittsburgh Penguins free agent right wing Matthew Barnaby was awarded a one-year, $1 million contract, $500,000 less than he was seeking; New Jersey Devils left wing Brian Rolston was awarded a two-year deal worth $2.7 million.


Sampras Advances

Pete Sampras celebrated his 28th birthday with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Rainer Schuttler in the third round of the $2.45 million ATP Championship in Mason, Ohio. Advancing to the quarterfinals with Sampras were defending champion Patrick Rafter, who beat 15th-seeded Nicolas Lapentti, 6-2, 6-3; fourth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who defeated Chris Woodruff, 6-4, 6-4; fifth-seeded Tim Henman, who beat 12th-seeded Nicolas Kiefer, 6-4, 6-1; sixth-seeded Gustavo Kuerten, who defeated 11th-seeded Tommy Haas, 7-5, 7-5; seventh-seeded Richard Krajicek, who beat Justin Gimelstob, 6-4, 6-2; and Michael Chang, who beat Cedric Pioline, 6-1, 6-4.


Repairs for Delta Center

The Delta Center, declared structurally sound despite shattered windows and holes in the roof, will be closed for repairs for about six weeks. The eight-year-old arena, home to the NBA's Utah Jazz and WNBA's Utah Starzz, took a direct hit when a tornado churned through downtown Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Larry Miller, owner of the Jazz and the Delta Center, estimated damage at just under $5 million. He said insurance would cover repairs.

The 19,911-seat facility had holes in its roof, broken windows and drenched floors. There was water damage to carpets and ceilings, mostly in the arena's upper-level suites and club rooms.

As cleanup progressed, Miller said the place looked presentable.

The hardest hit corner was on the club level, six floors up, where crumbled ceiling tiles littered the carpet and jagged shards of glass poked in from metal window frames.

The Starzz have moved tonight's game against the Phoenix Mercury and an Aug. 21 matchup against the Los Angeles Sparks from the Delta Center to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Track and Field

Questionable Victory

One of the contenders to share in track's $1 million Golden League jackpot could lose his victory in the Weltklasse meet after admitting he asked a countryman to slow down so he could win. Bernard Barmasai, the 3,000-meter steeplechase record holder, told reporters he asked fellow Kenyan Christopher Koskei to drop back just before the end of Wednesday's race. The International Amateur Athletics Federation said it would carry out a formal investigation.


Title Defense

Washington's Mark Johnson, who turns 28 today, will defend his International Boxing Federation junior bantamweight title tonight against Mexico's Jorge LaCierva at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Conn. Johnson has won 37 of 38 pro bouts, including 36 in a row. LaCierva is 15-2.

The bout will be televised on ESPN2.


Capitol City Loses

The Capitol City Little League team lost to State College (Pa.), 5-3, in its third game of the first round of the Eastern Regional Little League tournament in Bristol, Conn. Capitol City starting pitcher Danny Diaz hit a three-run homer in the third inning, but surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Capitol City (2-1) has two games remaining in the first round and must finish at least fourth in its six-team group to advance to Monday's quarterfinals.


Mystics to Autograph

Washington Mystics Chamique Holdsclaw and Rita Williams will sign autographs today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Lady Foot Locker store at Dulles Town Center.

CAPTION: Pete Sampras, above, celebrates 28th birthday with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Rainer Schuttler to advance to quarterfinals of the ATP Championship.