Lisa Strom has waited patiently - eight years, to be exact - for a chance to play in her second major LPGA tournament, and that opportunity arrives today when she tees off in the first round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

She has been working on her game, waiting for all that effort to come to fruition, and what better place to see improvement than this weekend at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md.?

"I think my year has been relatively solid, although the results maybe haven't shown it," Strom said Tuesday after practice at the course.

"I've played well and I'm happy with the direction I'm going," she said. "My goals are a little bit higher and I'm trying to get better every day. You can't get complacent out here."

Strom, 32, a PIAA state champion during her time at Lansdale Catholic High School, has full exempt status on the Tour thanks to her strong performance at last fall's LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, where she finished in a tie for seventh (with Michelle Wie).

The resident of Huntersville, N.C., has missed four cuts in seven events thus far, including the one at last week's State Farm Classic. But she left that tournament with some confidence after firing a career-best 67 that left her 1 shot from the cutoff.

"That was encouraging for the most part," she said. "I'm pleased but not happy with the results. I'm making good progress with my putting. I've never felt more confident on the greens. It's been a couple of months of good, hard work."

Strom, whose only previous major was the 2001 U.S. Women's Open, likes Bulle Rock because it favors longer hitters, and she is averaging 262 yards off the tee.

She will have her own cheering section this week, with her parents, her uncle, and quite a few friends in the gallery. And she hopes to show them something.

"It would be great this week to have a big breakthrough," Strom said. "It's kind of exciting."

The Amateur. Michael McDermott of Merion will try to become the first repeat winner of the Philadelphia Amateur in 15 years when the 109th championship, at Stonewall in Chester County, begins Monday.

A field of 125 players will play 36 holes of qualifying Monday to gain one of the 32 available berths in match play. That includes McDermott, thanks to a rule change in which the defending champion is no longer exempt from qualifying and automatically seeded first in match play.

McDermott defeated Cole Willcox in last year's final at Whitemarsh Valley. A win this year would make him the first player to win back-to-back titles since Overbrook's Chris Lange in 1993 and '94.

Lange, a three-time winner of the Amateur, joins Brian Rothaus of Talamore, Bill McGuinness of Tavistock, Michael Hyland of Little Mill, Brian Gillespie of St. Davids, and Michael Tash of Tavistock as former champions in the field.

For Hyland, who defeated McDermott for the 2000 title and then turned professional, it marks his first Amateur since he regained his amateur status.

Kim's ace. Anthony Kim excited the crowd at Monday's Exelon Invitational by making a hole-in-one with a 5-iron on the 197-yard, par-3 12th hole at the ACE Club.

"It was really thrilling for some of our staff who were there and saw it go in the hole," said the club's head pro, Mike Reynolds, who added that the hole was played as the 14th for the event, hosted by Jim Furyk.

A nonlocal Open. None of the 15 amateurs and professionals with Philadelphia-area ties advanced through Monday's sectional qualifying and gained a berth in the U.S. Open.

Vince Covello, a mini-tour pro from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and a former member at Llanerch, had the best score, a 143, at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., but that was 4 strokes from the playoff for the final spots.

Other good scores were posted by Keith Dicciani of White Plains, N.Y., a former Temple player who had a 143 in Purchase, N.Y.; Jim Kania Jr. of Haverford, who shot a 144 in Rockville; and Peter Barron III of Mays Landing, N.J., who had a 144 in Purchase.