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Amateurs should follow the leader

The amateurs who were spraying the ball over the TPC of Tampa Bay on Friday as part of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am need to take note of the name atop the leaderboard.

Bruce Lietzke, more than any other player, should be their inspiration.

And it's not because he has made a career of playing as little as possible - most of the amateur bigwigs probably play more golf than he does.

No, Lietzke offers a valuable lesson: find a swing and stick with it.

"I think every amateur in the world, unless they play golf 300 days a year, should play the way I play," said Lietzke, 54, who shot 6-under 65 to share the first-round lead with 2004 Outback winner Mark McNulty. "They should try to find the one swing they have and learn to develop it and repeat it.

"I'm using the exact same swing that I've used for 30 years. I've made no changes in my grip or my setup or my stance. My equipment is actually the same. The same dimensions, same weight, same loft from 30 years ago. I have developed muscle memory."

Lietzke didn't have many good memories from his previous trips around the TPC of Tampa Bay (opening with a 79 last year), but he put those thoughts out of his mind to put up a score matched only by McNulty, 52, who has five Champions Tour victories in two seasons.

Their scores were good for a two-shot advantage over CBS analyst Gary McCord, Keith Fergus and Dan Pohl on a cool, cloudy day that turned out to be good for scoring.

Another shot back after 68s were former tournament champions Dave Stockton and Larry Nelson along with Tom Kite, Jerry Pate, Bobby Wadkins, John Harris, Des Smyth and Doug Johnson.

In all, 33 players broke par-71, including defending champion Hale Irwin (69) and the Champions Tour's hottest player, Loren Roberts (69), who has won all three tournament so far this year and is bidding to tie Chi Chi Rodriguez's tour record set in 1987 of four straight victories.

Lietzke and amateur partner Bing Kearney also are tied with three teams for the pro-am lead after a best-ball 61. The top 12 pro-amateur teams after today advance to Sunday's final round with all of the pros.

McNulty, a native of Zimbabwe who lives in Orlando, won his first Champions Tour event here two years ago and followed up with a runnerup finish last year. In six trips around the TPC of Tampa Bay, all of his rounds have been in the 60s.

"When you come back to places where you've played well, you do have good vibes, and that definitely helps," he said. "Even when you're playing poorly, it sort of revitalizes you and you're able to pick yourself up so you can find your next trip here and produce. You sort of draw back on things from the past."

Lietzke has made a career out of that.

To the amazement and envy of many who follow the game, Lietzke won 13 PGA Tour titles playing a limited schedule and rarely picking up a club. The goal was to make enough money to live comfortably while spending as much time as possible at home with his family.

In the last 10 years of his PGA Tour career, Lietzke never played as many as 20 events in a season, and in the last five, he played 10 or fewer while looking forward to the Champions Tour.

After turning 50 in July 2001, Lietzke has never played fewer than 20 events in a full Champions Tour season. Now that his two kids are out of the house, he and his wife, Rosemarie, can travel the country, allowing for more tournament golf.

But don't get the idea that Lietzke is all of a sudden a range rat. For a fleeting moment Friday, when his driver was not cooperating on the front nine, Lietzke thought he might have to work on it after the round.

"But the way I finished, I'm putting the clubs away like I normally do," he said. "I haven't hit balls after a round it's been 10 or 12 years. I didn't want to have to do that so soon again."

A legendary Lietzke story was told again Friday. In late 1984, Lietzke told his caddie after the final tournament of the season that he would not touch the clubs again until the first tournament of the following year, which would be nearly four months.

"He didn't believe me," Lietzke said.

So the caddie stuck a banana under the head cover of Lietzke's driver - only to discover it still there when the two met again.

"The head cover was ruined. The bag smelled bad," Lietzke said. "But he never doubted me again."

For Lietzke, who has earned more than $12-million in a career of part-time work, it is hard to argue with the results. Amateurs, take note.

LEADERBOARD

Bruce Lietzke 65 -6

Mark McNulty 65 -6

Keith Fergus 67 -4

Gary McCord 67 -4

Dan Pohl 67 -4

OTHERS

Hale Irwin 69 -2

Loren Roberts 69 -2

Gary Player 74

+3

Craig Stadler 74

+3

Lee Trevino 74

+3

TODAY ON TV: 1:30 p.m. Golf Channel

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