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    Course tempts foundation

    A group dedicated to helping handicapped kids through golf looks at St. Andrews in Dunedin.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- A non-profit group that uses golf to motivate handicapped children is deciding whether to buy St. Andrews Links golf course.

    "The foundation is looking at several options for a permanent home for the foundation and the Links is an obvious choice," Cary Stiff, senior vice president of the Vincent Reid Foundation, said Wednesday.

    Stiff said the foundation's board is looking at two other locations in Pinellas County but she declined to identify them or say whether they are golf courses.

    The Dunedin course is owned by Tom Lokey and Dan Doyle, both of Belleair. In 1991, they paid $940,000 for the course, which was assessed for tax purposes at $572,500, according to records at the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office.

    Neither Lokey, Doyle nor their attorney Charles Barber returned phone calls to their homes and offices.

    Course Manager Paul Sylvester, who also teaches lessons there, said that over the past year many offers have been made to the owners to sell the place but still no acceptable offers.

    "We've had numerous people inquire about it but none of them wanted to pay the money," Sylvester said. "I'm sure if they get what their asking for, they'll sell it."

    The asking price, according to Stiff: $1.5-million. She said the foundation would have to raise money to pull off a deal.

    Professional golf instructor Vincent Reid started the foundation in October. Currently, it's based in a house in Tampa, and 10 children are enrolled.

    "What we try to do is communicate and understand what they are going through," said Reid, who has worked with handicapped children since 1977. "Being able to make a sandwich or pour a glass of milk, which we take for granted, are everyday struggles for handicapped children."

    St. Andrews Links has a driving range, an 18-hole course and is frequented largely by senior citizens. It was created in the early 1950s by Larry Hoffman and golfer Gordon Hinn. Originally named Oak Ridge, the course is less than a block from Dunedin Country Club.

    The course has changed ownership several times and, at one point, a developer wanted to place an amusement center on it. But the city opposed the idea. The land is now zoned for public and private recreational use only.

    Last March, the city considered buying the 27-acre course to preserve the land as open space. The course appraised at $950,000.

    But with negotiations languishing, the city abandoned the issue and focused on keeping Nielsen Media Research and the Toronto Blue Jays from leaving town.

    "It's something we would still want to look at," said John Lawrence, city manager. "We need to take another look at it and see if we want to bring it before the city commission as another issue to consider."

    If the foundation were to buy the course, there are questions about how the course would be used and whether it would be open to the public.

    "We want to do what is in the best interest of the children and the community," Stiff said. "We would hope to have a program that engages the community in such a way that would allow them to use their experience to help these kids succeed."

    - Information from Times files was used in this report.

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