Joyriding juveniles make off with cart while golfer putts

Police recover the cart and most of its contents, and a 13-year-old girl found with the cart is arrested.

Published March 4, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - A golfer's outing at the St. Petersburg Country Club ended abruptly last weekend when a group of juveniles made off with his golf cart.

The theft occurred as the golfer was putting on the 14th hole last Sunday. The missing items included the Sky Caddy golf cart he was using, along with $1,600 worth of golf clubs, his ID, bank card, GPS device and a $5 bill.

Although listed as grand theft, it was not considered a major theft, St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman George Kajtsa said.

Except for the $370 GPS device, police recovered everything and arrested a minor, a 13-year-old girl who was later found with the cart.

The juvenile was identified by the victim, Bruce Keene, and witnesses, according to the police report.

"We don't have very many golf cart thefts," anywhere in the city, Kajtsa said. The state attorney has the case now, he added.

Golf carts are easy targets because they come from the manufacturer with a universal key. The 84 carts at the Mangrove Bay Golf Course generally have one key that fits, said Kenny Betz, head golf pro. Even so, Betz said, in his 22 years at the course, the only instance of golf cart theft was in January.

Golf carts may just attract juveniles, because kids were the suspects in that cart's theft, as well.

"Some kids across the street, they must have drove it around," Betz said. "Then four days later we found it in the canal ... they drove it down the ramp and into the water and left it there for us.

"That's kind of what we figured out, no one was ever caught," he said. "We've had some customers' clubs stolen, but not very often."

Karrie Farley, the Mangrove Bay golf course attendant, agrees that occasionally things are stolen.

"It's happened, but most of the time they just lose it out on the golf course," Farley said.

"They assume it's stolen because it doesn't get turned in."

Betz said that natural barriers and being surrounded by the bay might help deter crime at Mangrove Bay. "We're pretty fortunate. We've got boundaries all around pretty much except our entrance," he said.

The situation is just the opposite at the St. Petersburg Country Club, which is surrounded by subdivisions. The lush vistas seem to invite pedestrians, or children on bicycles, to abandon the neighboring streets and cut across the fairway instead of traveling around it.

Isla Del Sol Country Club, which also meanders through neighborhoods, is on an island surrounded by high-end condominiums. Although cars go by all the time, drivers pay a 50-cent toll to access the Pinellas Bayway on the way to Tierra Verde and Fort De Soto.

Isla Del Sol assistant golf pro Brooks Cavender said they have had no instances of golf cart theft, but they have had rare instances of stealing. More commonly, people leave their cell phones in the golf cart, but when the cart is returned to the barn, the phone is turned in, he said. Keene could not be reached for comment and Ken DeMott, general manager of the St. Petersburg Country Club, declined comment on the Feb. 25 incident.