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Leopard sticks to the rules

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando's Tara Allen knew her actions would be questioned and her motives scrutinized, but she said she really had no choice.

The facts, she said, were plain. When Citrus' two-time defending Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion, Christina Mitchell, slammed her club in frustration on the 12th hole of the conference tournament on Monday at Silverthorn Country Club, she broke a basic and understood rule of golf.

"My parents have always raised me to be very strict about rules," Allen said. "And I've been penalized for a lot of things I never knew were rules. We play in the same league together during the summer, so I know we all knew it's a rule. Two coaches said to us before we went off, "Remember good sportsmanship. Don't slam or throw clubs.'

"(Mitchell) slammed her club into the ground and it slipped out of her hand. I mean, I'm good friends with her and all, but I can't walk away knowing that if I did not call that on her, someone could have won in place of her."

Allen, along with the third player in the No. 1 playing group, Lecanto's Erin Fields, informed coaches of the violation after the round. A coaches committee opted to add two strokes to Mitchell's score rather than disqualify the senior.

"It was just a stupid shot I did and I got aggravated," Mitchell said. "It just happened. (The penalty) was the fair thing to do."

Allen, a sophomore, won by seven strokes with 82. Mitchell finished sixth with 98.

The decision, Allen said, was difficult, but not reporting the violation would have bothered her more.

"It was a real tough situation because we play together a lot," she said. "It was hard for me to say it, but once I got it out, I'm definitely going to stick with it."

REDEEMED: Allen said she hopes her victory shows her friends she wasn't just avoiding them this summer.

"This kind of shows all the work I did this summer paid off," she said. "All the alienation of all my friends. All my friends saying, "Hey, come out with me' and me saying, "No, I have to play golf.' "

GREY MATTERS: Central sophomore Grey Gonzalez was boys medalist with 75, a quiet 75.

"I was keeping quiet and just worrying about my game," said Gonzalez, a former age-group champion of the Philippines. "I normally talk a lot, but I guess I wasn't in the mood or I felt I needed to focus."

Gonzalez lost that focus briefly when he hit a shot out of bounds on No. 17 and in the water on 18, but he finished with two birdies and 12 pars. Central won the team title by 18 strokes over Citrus.

-- Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407 or brant@sptimes.com.

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