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Sipula Leads PGA Tourney

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Tom Sipula of River Vale, N.J., eagled the ninth hole and birdied four of the next eight Monday enroute to a 5-under-par 67 and the first round lead in the 50th anniversary staging of the PGA Stroke Play Championship.
 
Sipula, an assistant professional at Edgewood Country Club, holed out a 130-yard wedge shot from the ninth fairway on the South course at the PGA Golf Club. 'The ball landed on the left side of the green and just trickled down to the hole,' he said.
 
Troy Beck of Glenn Dale, Md., shot 77 on the South and was low among six women in the starting field of 280 PGA professionals. The women are playing at 85 percent of the men's length, or about a thousand yards shorter.
 
Suzy Whaley of Farmington, Conn., opened with 82 on one birdie, seven bogies, two double bogies. She had eight three-putt greens. 'I played well from tee to green,' Whaley said, 'but I haven't been able to work on my short game lately and it showed.'
 
Whaley, 35, head professional at Blue Fox Run Golf Club in Avon, Conn., won the Connecticut PGA Section Championship in September to become the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event, the Greater Hartford Open July 24-27.
 
Sipula, winner of the New Jersey PGA Match Play Championship last summer, birdied Nos. 10, 15, 16 and 17 before closing with bogey at the par-4 18th from a fairway bunker. Overall, he made six birdies, three bogies and the eagle.
 
'The past year is the best I've ever played,' said Sipula, who was second in a regional Club Professional Championship in the fall and second on the NJPGA player of the year point standings. 'It's been great fun.'
 
Tied for second at 68 heading into the second round Tuesday were Floridians Dean Prowse of Weston and Ed Sabo of Tequesta. Each made seven birdies and three bogies on the South course.
 
The field switches venues for the second round, after which there will be a cut to 130 and ties. The third and fourth rounds will be played Wednesday and Thursday on the adjacent North course with the winner earning $5,185 from the $89,000 purse.
 
Adam Decker of Philipsburg, Pa., was low on the North with 69. Defending champion Chip Johnson of North Scituate, Mass., opened with 74, also on the North.
 
The start of play was delayed for 45 minutes by morning frost and the large field finished as darkness fell.
 
PGA Stroke Play Championship
PGA GC, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
South course, 6,895 yards (men), 5,769 yards (women); par 72
North course, 6,887 yards (men), 5,799 yards (women); par 72
 
67 - Tom Sipula, River Vale, N.J.
 
68 - Dean Prowse, Weston. Ed Sabo, Tequesta.
 
69 - Adam Decker, Philipsburg, Pa. Lonnie Nielsen, East Aurora, N.Y.
 
70 - Joe Lubas, Greenwich, Conn. John Sutter, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
 
71 - Bill Anderson, Wilmington, N.C. Frank Bensel, Purchase, N.Y. Tony DeMaria, Port Chester, N.Y. Ron Faria, Hempstead, N.Y. John Forster, Sayville, N.Y. Pete Oakley, Lewes, Del. Gary Ostrega, Westfield, N.J. Curt Schnell, Bettendorf, Iowa.
 
72 - Frank Dobbs, Port St. Lucie. Brian Gaffney, Westfield, N.J. Jeff Hunter, Columbia, Ill. Jerry Impellittiere, New Windsor, N.Y. Steve Roberts, Lewiston, N.Y. Jerry Tucker, Stuart. Rick Vershure, Armonk, N.Y.