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    Club pros Falcone, Carlson run into a flock of birdies

    By DAVE THEALL

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2001


    Last week's Pinellas Interclub match at Seminole Lake produced two sub-par rounds by club pros representing Dunedin Country Club and Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

    Dunedin head pro John Falcone had six birdies, plus two bogeys and a double eagle, in his round of 2-under 70.

    Vinoy assistant pro Kevin Carlson had five birdies in his round of 70, including a hat trick of sorts -- three in a row on his last three holes.

    "Actually, I was going for an eagle on the par-5 12th, my last hole, but I two-putted from the fringe for the birdie," said Carlson, 27, who joined the Vinoy staff last March.

    "I hit a lot of good iron shots in my round," he said. "Even my bad shots were pretty good, meaning I hit the middle of the green rather than being right on the pin where I was aiming."

    Carlson said he recently underwent a major swing change that worked for him. His putting wasn't too shabby, either.

    On the par-3 10th hole, Carlson drained a 35-foot putt for a birdie. Then on the 11th, a par-4, he sank a breaking 8-footer that set up his string of birdies and strong finish.

    Carlson's performance helped his 10-man team tie for third in the match and vault Vinoy into first place in the standings over Seminole Lake. Cove Cay is third in the 12-club field, and Belleair is fourth. Carlson was a high school baseball player growing up in Plantation and didn't start golf until he was 16. He's a graduate of Florida International University in Miami.

    "I'm excited about my game now," Carlson said. "It kindles my dream of playing the game every day."

    Falcone had every reason to be excited about his fine round.

    He is recovering from a 1999 reconstructive shoulder surgery and finally enjoyed playing without pain.

    "It was a good round for me," said Falcone, 37, who took over at Dunedin in January. "I was killing it off the tee all day with a 3-iron, getting 230 yards with the new Callaway ball. The round would have been even better if I hadn't missed five putts in the 3-5- foot range.

    "But I'm not going to get too excited about the score," Falcone said. "This game is day-to-day."

    Starting on No. 3 with a birdie, Falcone proceeded to sink birdie putts on 8, 10, 13, 17 and 1.

    He teamed with amateur partner Jim Cooper for an 11-under better-ball score of 61. The performance was the best of the day and tied Ed McCallum and Bob Malbin of East Lake Woodlands.

    Falcone is a native of Westerly, R.I. He did his PGA apprenticeship at Westchester, N.Y., and later served as head pro at Chevel Golf and Country Club in Lutz for six years.

    Falcone played on the Hooters Tour for 11/2 seasons, then the shoulder problem developed.

    NOTES: Dunedin Country Club will play host to a pro-am Friday, bringing together 15 of the top club pros in the area.

    Among those are Bill Buttner, St. Petersburg Country Club; Paul Coe, Wentworth; Matt Mitchell, Countryside Learning Center; and Jim Slattery, Belleair Country Club.

    The pros will play with three amateur members of Dunedin. The prize money scale starts with $500 to the winner.

    ECKERD PRO-AM: The Bayou Club and Bardmoor played host to the 10th annual event Monday.

    Thirty-two Senior Tour players, fresh off the Verizon Classic, were in the field, along with 32 area pros.

    Jim Dent of Tampa was in the field, along with Sunday's co-runner-up, Bobby Walzel, George Archer, Dana Quigley, Walter Hall, Harold Henning, Tom Wargo, Gibby Gilbert, Tommy Aaron, Miller Barber and Orville Moody.

    Area club pros included Falcone, Slattery, Frank Reynolds, Terry Decker, Jeff Hollis, Matt Auen, Randy Mosley, Tom West and Chris Souchak.

    MORE PGA SENIORS: The Verizon Classic program included a Pepsi Junior pro-am at Heritage Harbor in Lutz.

    Among the local juniors who got to play with the senior pros were Brad Quiri, an East Lake High School senior who will play for USF next fall; Ryan Nachit of Canterbury School and Andrew Turker of Berkeley Prep.

    SENIORS GOLF ASSOCIATION: Peg Dell and Pat Mabbatt of Palm Harbor won the SGA Valentine's member-guest at the Bayou Club in a better-ball format.

    They shot 57 to beat runners-up John Chmura of Oldsmar and Ralph Dygon of Clearwater by a stroke. An international team of Allan Sandstrom of Sweden and guest Dan Cresswell of England was another shot back in third.

    In last week's match at Heritage Harbor, Bert Hansen, 83, of Dunedin birdied the par-5 458-yard 17th hole.

    The SGA meets next in Pinellas at Crescent Oaks on Monday. For registration information, call the Clearwater office, 791-1490.

    COLLEGES: Courtney Burdick, a freshman at Florida International via Largo High School, helped the Golden Panthers to a second-place finish in the recent 15-school Lady Eagle Invitational in Hattiesburg, Miss.

    Burdick shot rounds of 83-83-81-247 for fourth place on the team. Natalie Smith (Seminole High School), playing for South Alabama, finished fourth on her squad with a 272 total.

    Ryan Gildersleeve (Clearwater High School) and Matt Lemma (East Lake) play for the South Alabama men's team. They finished third and fifth, respectively, for the 11th-place Jaguars in the recent Beau Rivage Classic in Biloxi, Miss.

    Both are expected to play in this week's Ron Smith/USF Classic in Tampa.

    Lavana Davis (Seminole), a junior at Miami, missed last week's UCF Invitational with a sore wrist. On top of that, she suffered the loss of her clubs, which were stolen.

    TAP-INS: The County Golf Association will meet Thursday at Seminole Lake. For details, call 530-7226.

    At Pasadena, Sandy Jones of Tampa Palms won a West Coast Women's match last week with a 3-over 75.

    Mary Critchfield of the Bayou Club tied for fourth with an 81. Margaret Leigh of Countryside finished third (84) in Flight A, Nan Habjan of Clearwater tied for second (83) in Flight B and Barbara Kroot of East Lake Woodlands won Flight D with an 87.

    Razor Golf of Oldsmar, makers of irons and metal woods, has signed tour veterans Tommy Bolt and Jan Stephenson.

    The company will manufacture Bolt signature irons and a new line for Stephenson.

    In a rare double ace, husband and wife Harold and Mildred Narvey from Manitoba, Canada, made a hole-in-one on the 126-yard No. 7 hole at East Bay Executive last week.

    Then, Mildred proceeded to trump Harold on the 98-yard ninth hole.

    "She couldn't believe it went in," Harold, 73, said of his 72-year-old wife's first ace in 30 years. "She was in shock. We went home and called our children back in Canada."

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