tampabay.com

Root records his biggest win

By DAVE THEALL
Published January 19, 2005


Consistency is one value in the sport. A better one, however, is scoring lower.

Doug Root, a member at host St. Petersburg Country Club, demonstrated that in the 79th annual New Year's Invitational.

His opening rounds of 73, 73 and 73 - 1-over par each day - gave him an insecure three-stroke lead entering the final round of the Senior Division (players 55-and-over).

His closest competitors were among the best in the state - Mike Walters and Don Lucas, both of Tampa. In the third round, they had reduced Root's lead by shooting 71 and 72, respectively.

Then Root departed from consistent rounds and crafted a 3-under 69 to capture the championship trophy by six strokes over Lucas, whose final round was 72.

"I drove well all week, especially the final day when I hit 12 of 14 fairways off the tee," Root said. "Also, I had only 29 putts in that final round, which is better than average for me there on my home course.

"But in a larger sense, I've been preparing for the past year and a half for my entry into the Senior Division and going to the gym regularly to get in shape," he said. "Fitness is a big part of this game that's often overlooked."

In recent years, Root has lowered his handicap to 1. After an eagle chip-in from 30 feet on the 465-par 5 16th hole, his sixth, Root might have thought he had a safe cushion.

But Walters proceeded to sink a 20-foot putt for an eagle to stay in contention, and Lucas birdied to keep the match interesting. Kent Whittemore was the fourth player in the final foursome, and he was in contention. Root didn't make a bogey in the final round until No. 1, his group's 10th hole, where he missed a five-foot putt.

The turning point was their 14th hole, the 328-yard par-4 fifth. Root sliced his tee shot under a tree with two trees in front of his approach shot to the green.

"I hit a low 5-iron between the trees that went 100 yards to the green, enabling me to two-putt and save par," Root said.

"That was huge. ... That and not making many big mistakes all week. That helped me win my biggest tournament ever, with its strong field and history."

NOTES: Root won the St. Petersburg City Championship in 1994, '96 and '97. In October, he returned to Mangrove Bay and captured the Senior Division two weeks after turning 55.

Whittemore, another City Championship winner, tied for third in the New Year's Invitational with a 72-hole 300, as did Jim Holbrook.

In the Open Division of the South's oldest men's amateur, the University of Indiana's Jeff Overton came from behind with a final-round 67 to overtake third-round leader Adam Scrimenti of Sarasota by a stroke.

The Florida Gators' Dalton Melnyk finished third (278) and was followed by a tie for fourth between Jeremy Hobson (282) and 2003 winner John Holmes of the University of Kentucky.

PRO NEWS: Seminole's Brittany Lincicome, 19, has been invited to play in the Jan. 29 Tim Wakefield Charity Classic in Melbourne. Wakefield, a Boston Red Sox pitcher, and teammate Johnny Damon will tee it up in the fund-raiser. Lincicome makes her 2005 LPGA Tour debut in Hawaii next month.

WEST COAST WOMEN: Pinellas golfers won three of five flights in the association's first match of the year.

At Belleair Country Club, Cathy Moss of the Vinoy took the title in Flight A with an 81, Sue Rooney of Innisbrook won Flight B (83), and Ann Stafford of Crescent Oaks and Cindy Kahle tied in C (86). Walden Lake's Jackie Currier had the day's best round (78), winning Flight AA.

CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP: Jim Ahern successfully defended his title at Tarpon Woods last week in the 36-hole final, 5 & 4 over Ken Fawcett.

LARGO GOLF COURSE: In the biweekly scramble, 13-under 49 won for the team of Grey Farrey of Seminole, Mike Kuykandahl of Clearwater and Largo's Homer Holmes and Rich Creech.

JUNIORS: Clearwater's Courtney Harter, 15, won the girls 13-18 division of the Future Collegians World Tour event at the University of Florida course in Gainesville. A sophomore at Palm Harbor University High, Harter posted 73-74-73 for a 10-over 220 to win by three strokes.