Oldsmar player Morelli takes strong outing to state tourney

By Dave Theall
Published July 27, 2005

A low-handicap golfer used a CGA match at St. Petersburg Country Club last week to prepare for the State Public Links Championship in Orlando.

Oldsmar's Vic Morelli, 43, teamed with Tampa's Barry Smith for a par 72 and share of first place in Better Ball of Pair competition. An oddity was that Smith also paired with Palm Harbor's Cary Loomis for 72.

The format for better ball events is that each person plays his ball from tee to green and the lower score is used.

"That's what the CGA usually does when there's an odd number of participants," said Morelli, who has a 3 handicap.

His most memorable shot was draining a tricky downhill left-to-right breaker on the 185-yard No. 3 for the day's sole birdie on that hole.

"Although I would have scored about a 78 on my own ball, I'm pleased with the way I played and feel that the round was a positive effort toward (last weekend's) state tournament," Morelli said. "St. Petersburg Country Club is challenging and a good test. The fairways were in excellent condition."

Dennis Williams of Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor's Jim Montali captured the CGA senior title with 72. CGA director Ray Goodman and Tampa's Peter Thompson won net honors at 65. The net runner-up spot was shared by Eddie Grant and Dan Rupp and Gary Kelley and Joe Gingrich.

MORE CGA: At Lansbrook last week, Palm Harbor's Justin Meier crafted a 4-under 68 to win the match by four strokes over Frank Saxon. Mark Small won the net division by the same margin. Montali captured senior honors with 70, and Wayne Brozovich used a 22 handicap to top net play at 62.

STATE PUBLIC LINKS TOURNEY: At Orlando's Metro West Golf Club, Morelli shot a 1-over 73 on Sunday to go with an opening 76. His 149 total tied for 20th. Palm Harbor's Jason Lusk posted 161.

U.S. SENIOR OPEN: Belleair's Jim Smith has an important event on his calendar this week. It is the 26th championship for men 50-and-older. The tournament in Kettering, Ohio, starts Thursday.

Smith was among only three who advanced from a sectional qualifier last week in DeLand. Before getting his ticket punched, he had to endure a three-hour wait to see if his 1-under 71 held up or at least got him into a playoff. Nationwide, 3,000 tried to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open, which has been won by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

On a 430-yard par-4 first hole in the sectional playoff at Victoria Hills Country Club, Smith drove long and used a 5-iron approach shot to nestle up to within 15 feet of the cup. Two putts sealed it, as Winter Park's Jack Jackson faltered after missing the green in two.

"I tried to be calm, but I still was a little nervous," said Smith, 55, who played collegiately at Florida and coached at SPJC. "I hope my success in DeLand will carry over." The sectional's other two qualifiers were David Canipe and Brad Bryant. Bryant, from Lakeland, finished 16th in last month's Ford Senior Players Championship, a major on the pro circuit.

Smith received an unexpected congratulatory phone call from Albany, N.Y., last week after nailing down the national championship berth. Clearwater's Jenny Gleason, in Concord, N.H., for the Laconia Future Tour event, called her former boss. Gleason used to work in the ice cream shop in front of Smith's Missing Links Range in Largo.

PROS: Bill Shriver, a Belleview Biltmore teaching pro, was the area's top performer in last week's Sunshine State Club Pro Championship in Palm Bay. He finished at 223 after 71-76-76 rounds.

Brittany Lincicome is in England for the Women's British Open, an LPGA major. It starts Thursday, with no scheduled local television coverage.

Gleason had another top-10 Future's Tour finish over the weekend in New Hampshire. Her 2-under 214 (72-69-73) tied for ninth. Gleason has won twice this season.

STATE FOUR-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP: St. Petersburg's Mike Abrams teamed with Mike Gilbourne of Neptune Beach to claim a share of sixth (67-67) in the annual tournament, July 16-17 in Orlando. JUNIORS: Danielle Jackson, a Northside Christian senior, posted 74-81-155 in the 57th U.S. Girls Junior Championship in Eagle, Idaho, last week. The 2004 Times Player of the Year missed the cut at 151, tying with Marika Lendl and Hannah Yun, both of Bradenton.

Courtney Harter, a Palm Harbor University High junior, won the girls division of the North-South Junior Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., last week. She fired 72-75-73 on three courses for a 2-over 220 and six-stroke win despite a triple bogey on the 18th hole in Thursday's final round. Harter was 1-over par on Pinehurst's famous No. 2 layout.