St. Petersburg Times Online: Pasco

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Round of golf turns violent

The game, usually marked by civility, fair play and sportsmanship, is anything but. The State Attorney's Office is investigating.

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2002


The game, usually marked by civility, fair play and sportsmanship, is anything but. The State Attorney's Office is investigating.

HUDSON -- James Fiumara's foursome played its typical average to below-average round of golf last month. But the nine holes they played Aug. 11 are under investigation by the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney's Office.

Not because they hit too many slices, which they did.

And not because they took a mulligan here and there, which they also did.

Prosecutors are investigating whether at least one member of the group was the victim of a simple battery behind the 16th green. A member of the impatient foursome behind them is accused of whacking one of them with a golf club.

"It's more of a mental game than it is physical," said foursome member Mark Downing. "You're not thinking there's going to be any kind of aggression or violence."

According to witnesses and a Pasco County sheriff's report, there was aggression, violence and a 3-wood.

* * *

This is the foursome:

James Fiumara, a 32-year-old whose favorite golfer is Phil Mickelson.

Mark Downing, a 38-year-old lefty with a perpetual slice.

Jim Cosentino, a 33-year-old former military man who won't ever hit his driver off the tee.

Ray Goff, Fiumara's father-in-law, who rolls a lot of shots off the tee. His partners call them worm-burners. "They're so slow the worms actually can duck," Cosentino quipped.

They each said they shoot a little below 50 for nine holes.

The group took up golf at various times, but none of them got very serious about it until this summer.

First, Fiumara said, he went to the driving range. Then he got good enough for the course. Soon his group had a routine. They would pay $13 each Sunday for 9 holes of golf and breakfast at Meadow Oaks in Hudson.

"We're new," Fiumara said. "We're not pros. We do our mulligans (hitting again after a bad shot) here and there."

They said they always let faster groups play through. That's what they were doing while playing the back nine on Aug. 11, they said. They paused on the 16th tee to see if the group behind might want to play through. But the group on the 15th green was messing around -- lighting cigars and not appearing to be in any hurry.

So they teed off. Fiumara said he ripped a drive down the middle of the fairway. His friends don't remember it that way. ("Maybe on the second shot, he got down there or something," Downing said.) But they all remember what they say happened when they got to the fairway.

"I'm about to hit my ball and I hear a thooomp," Fiumara said.

Then another. And a third.

Three times a ball whizzed past them.

They never heard "Fore!" -- the traditional warning when a ball is inadvertently hit near another golfer. They got angry. But nothing more than shouts came of it -- at least until they finished the hole.

Sheriff's officials did not release the names of anyone in the group behind Fiumara's foursome. One of them came walking toward Fiumara's group as they were teeing off on No. 17.

"You talking to me?" Fiumara said he asked the man.

The man was waving a club, they said. He swore back.

As they got close, Fiumara said he pushed the club away. He said it was an iron but Cosentino remembers it as a 3-wood.

Fiumara, who is 5 feet 3, said the 6-foot-2 man punched him in the face.

Cosentino said he rushed to break it up and the man turned on him like he was a golf ball.

"He turned around and just swung at me as hard as he could," Cosentino said.

The club's shaft hit his back and broke in three. The tussle continued momentarily with everyone rolling around together on the ground, a sheriff's report states. Eventually, the group said, it subdued the man from the trailing group.

Then they finished their rounds. They had a golf course ranger, who typically monitors for slow play, call the Sheriff's Office and a deputy met them in the clubhouse.

He didn't make any arrests. According to the Sheriff's Office report, the case was referred to the State Attorney's Office for further investigation. The men said they have not heard from any prosecutors.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

As much as each member of the foursome said he had trouble remembering specific parts of what happened. Fiumara, Cosentino and Downing all remember taking pars on the 18th hole.

For Cosentino that gave him a 40-something. It gave Downing something in the high 40s (maybe the low 50s, he said). And the par on 18 allowed Fiumara to card a 50, he said.

"I chipped it in from about 10 feet outside the green," Fiumara said. "It hit a nice slope and rolled right down into the hole."

-- Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is rdavis@sptimes.com.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.