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    Shooting stuns golfers; gunman still at large

    While a popular assistant golf pro remains in the hospital, detectives search for two suspects.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 18, 2003


    SEMINOLE -- From recreational golfers to head pros, the golfing community reacted with shock Thursday to the shooting of a popular assistant golf professional during an attempted robbery.

    Lanier Waters, 31, remained in serious condition at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg after he was shot while working Wednesday in the pro shop of the Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club in Seminole.

    "It absolutely just rocked my world," said Jim Smith, owner of Missing Links driving range in Largo, who fielded calls from Waters' peers until 1 a.m. Thursday. "They were all upset. He really has a lot of friends."

    Waters, an accomplished athlete in high school and college, worked at the driving range in the mid 1990s. Smith said Waters worked his way from a range attendant to a teaching professional.

    Pinellas County sheriff's detectives have made no arrests in the case, but continue to search for two suspects.

    Police say one is a 6-foot, 200-pound white man who was wearing long, baggy pants, a green and white plaid short-sleeved shirt and a green ski mask. A second suspect wearing a black ski mask was waiting in the driver's seat of a mid '80s slightly faded, dark blue Buick or Oldsmobile, possibly missing its left front hubcap.

    Deputies obtained surveillance footage of the attempted robbery.

    About 5 p.m. Wednesday, a man entered the pro shop at the public golf course off Starkey Road. Police say the suspect approached Waters in his office and placed a gun to his head, demanding he open a safe. The two men struggled and Waters was shot with a medium caliber semiautomatic handgun. The gunman then fled to a car waiting in a driveway.

    It is unclear whether the gunman escaped with any money. Bardmoor officials would not comment Thursday. A call to the golf club's parent company, Crown Golf Properties in Glenview, Ill., was not returned.

    The course was open Thursday, but the clubhouse was closed. A deputy's patrol car was parked near the first tee, where golfers checked in.

    "It's really strange," said Barry Herman, who lives in the Bardmoor neighborhood and occasionally golfs at the course.

    Waters, who lives in Largo, was the starting quarterback his senior year at Largo High. But he excelled in the intermediate and high hurdles in track and earned a scholarship to Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.

    That's where a coach at the University of South Florida in Tampa noticed Waters and offered him a scholarship to run for the Bulls. At USF, Waters set school records and won a conference title in 1994.

    But when Waters took up golf, he was hooked. He worked at a handful of local golf courses, including Mangrove Bay, one of St. Petersburg's city-owned courses.

    "It's been a sad day for us," said Jeff Hollis, golf courses director for the city of St. Petersburg. "He's just a great guy."

    Waters worked as an assistant pro at Mangrove Bay for a couple of years, leaving in 1999 to join a mini golf tour in South Florida.

    Smith, owner of Missing Links, said Waters was close to earning his Class A card, a three-year learning and working program that enables a student to become a head professional at a golf club.

    Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call Pinellas County Cpl. Paul Martin at 582-6305 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-873-8477.

    -- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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