Cold, wind hamper talented Chapman

By DAVE THEALL, Times Correspondent
Published January 19, 2008

Golf is challenging enough without compounding it with bitter cold temperatures and high winds.

That's what Seminole High senior Meghan Chapman and nearly 100 other elite women had to deal with at the recent Harder Hall Invitational in Sebring, a four-round tournament won in 2004 by former Seminole High golfer Brittany Lincicome before launching her professional career.

"The temperature at our 8 a.m. start was 27 degrees but really 10 to 15 degrees with the wind chill factor," said Chapman, the Times high school player of the year in 2006 and '07. "And the fact we had to ride instead of walk made it even colder. I wore three hats, five layers on top and three on my legs it was so cold. The result was I just couldn't swing my best."

The opening score was predictable. Chapman managed 86, followed with a respectable 74, then another 80 and closed with 74 for 314, tying with Daniela Lendl of Bradenton - far off the pace (281) set by winner Alison Walshe, a University of Arizona star ranked the fourth collegian by Golfweek.

Chapman is coming off her final high school season, in which she played on the Seminole boys team and managed to take medalist honors twice despite playing from the back tees instead of the women's tees. She won her district title with 3-over 75 then missed going to state by two strokes at regionals.

On the college recruiting circuit, Chapman visited the University of Florida, North Carolina State, Ole Miss and several smaller colleges.

Her choice for the next four years? Raleigh, N.C.

"I like their program and the format they follow," Chapman said. "They explained what they expect of student-athletes, and I'm comfortable with that. Also, whereas they played and practiced at various clubs in the Raleigh area in past years, they are building a college course now which will be finished this summer."

Chapman, who has played soccer, volleyball and high school basketball over the years, attributes her success, in part, to her high school coach, Steve Hoff, and her instructor, Jim Slattery at Belleair Country Club.

"Mr. Hoff convinced me that if I wanted to excel in any sport, I had to concentrate on it," she said. "I was getting hurt a lot in other sports, including needing crutches due to a basketball injury my sophomore year. ... I have a lot of respect for him.

"Mr. Slattery has helped my game in every possible way from tee to green, how to prepare for shots and the all-important mental game ... forget the past, focus on the present. They've helped me along the way to get the full ride to N.C. State."

Chapman won't compete again until the American Junior Golf Association invitational at Innisbrook on March 20-22.

Another junior prospect: At the same time Chapman was freezing in the women's tournament in Sebring, occasional practice partner Travis Ralph of Redington Beach was trying to be the youngest winner - or at least a high finisher - at the concurrent New Year's Invitational at St. Petersburg Country Club. Ralph, 16, was more consistent with rounds of 78-76-76-76-306 but far off the winning (281) pace of Bryce Ledford of Tennessee.

Still, the experience toughened Ralph for upcoming junior matches this spring.

Florida Junior Tour: Because of the bad weather, the statewide tournament in Gainesville was shortened to 18 holes. Josh Tipton of Orlando won with 8 after a playoff with Keifer Smith of Windermere. Westin Jensen of Belleair tied (72) for fifth, and Matt Cote of Palm Harbor shot 76.

In the girls division, Simin Feng, 12, of Orlando won with 74. A.J. Newell (Northside Christian) finished sixth with 77.

Junior tournament: The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office PAL, under the direction of Deputy Terry O'Reilly, had a tournament for high school seniors on tap for Friday at Airco Golf Course in Clearwater.

College outlook: Andrea Messer (Largo High) will play for Vanderbilt next fall. The Commodores finished sixth behind winning Duke at May's NCAA Women's Championship. Alabama, without freshman Courtney Harter (East Lake High), finished 23rd at Daytona Beach. She'll be eligible to compete this spring, having already won individual honors for the Crimson Tide last fall.

County golf: At last week's better-ball match at East Lake Woodlands, Tim deLeon and Mark Thomas of Palm Harbor tied (69) with Bill Boast and Rick Volco of Spring Hill. In the senior division, 71 was the tying score for Bob Chango with Bill Golson and Claud Johnson teamed with Fred Backiel.

Net honors went to Joe Gingrich with Joe Hannigan at 61, while Donna Laurich won with Lori Gill (71) in the ladies division.

West Coast women: At Monday's match at Cove Cay, Lisa Hartley of Clearwater Country Club finished second (83) to Pat Rogers (77) of Tampa Palms. Pinellas flight winners were Kim Hollister, shooting 87 in A, and Cindy McManamon, 84 in Flight B, and Sue Riggins, St. Petersburg Country Club, winning C with 84.