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Several take aim at Speight in West Coast championship

By DAVE THEALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


The 57th annual West Coast Women's Golf Association Championship, which got under way Monday at Tampa Palms, promises to be as competitive as ever.

Any one of 12 low-handicap players from the Tampa Bay area could cop the title, which was first contested in 1940 but suspended in the years of World War II.

Kathy Speight of Feather Sound is the defending champion after having won last year's tournament in a sudden-death playoff with Mary Ann Petrillo of Tierra Verde. Petrillo had won in 1999.

The players with the lowest handicap indexes are members of Palma Ceia Golf and Tennis Club of Tampa. They are long-ball hitting Terrell Italiano, who plays to an index of 0.4, and seven-time tournament winner Sharon Gonsalves, who plays to a 1.4.

Italiano is ranked 57th nationally among amateur women by Golfweek magazine.

They tuned up for the championship match by finishing 1-2 at the Bayou Club last month. Italiano won with a 75, and Gonsalves was second with an 80.

More recently, Petrillo, a member of St. Petersburg Country Club, won with a 73 at Grasslands in Lakeland in a WCWGA match.

Other serious contenders include Kim Hollister, Feather Sound; Mary Critchfield, Bayou Club, Debbie Mook Sang, River Hills; Judy Schmitt, River Wilderness; Bev Bounds, Black Diamond; Kathy Hunt, Cheval; Jackie Currier, Walden Lake; and tournament director Sandy Jones, who will have an advantage playing on her home course.

Speight, 40, whose handicap index is 4.2, has reason to be confident in the 36-hole event, which crowns the women's amateur champion for the seven-county area. She shot a 1-over 73 in her last outing on her home course.

"I've been busy lately and not really playing that much," said Speight (pronounced SPATE). "That round of 73 is encouraging because I went through a period of the yips on the greens prior to that. My short game, in general, was horrible. But I've seemed to overcome that and picked up about 20 yards driving distance since switching to the Lady Precept ball. That ball has also enabled me to grow a club, meaning I hit a 6-iron now where I used to use a 5, for instance.

"But the outcome of this tournament for me will hinge on my putting," she said. "Putting is everything is this game. That and the weather. I thrive in warm weather and calm days. So I hope it's not cold and windy."

NOTES: WCWGA president Mary Jane Perry of River Wilderness will be stepping down after the tournament as a new set of officers have been nominated for a two-year term.

They include Barbara Kroot, East Lake Woodlands, president; Judy Schmitt, River Wilderness, first vice president; Sharon Gonsalves, Palma Ceia, second vice president; Jackie Currier, Walden Lake, secretary; Margaret Leigh, Countryside, treasurer; and Perry, River Wilderness, ex-officio.

FUTURES TOUR: Two-time NCAA All-American Beth Bauer has entered next week's Southwestern Bell Futures Classic at Canyon Creek Country Club, Richardson, Texas. Bauer, who was born in Largo and attended Fitzgerald Middle School in Pinellas Park, is coming off her first pro win.

In last month's Futures Tour event in Patterson, Calif., she parred the 380-yard 18th hole six times. Three times came during the three rounds of the tournament, and three came in a playoff.

The win was worth $8,400 to the rookie from Duke University and moved her into third place on the Futures Tour money list. The top three at the end of the season earn full exemption on the LPGA Tour.

COLLEGES: Florida Gator Amanda Dick (Countryside High School) finished third for the winning team in the recent Florida Women's Collegiate at Don Shula's Golf Resort in Miami. In a field of 70 players, Dick, a freshman, shot rounds of 74-76-77 for a 227 and tie for 13th in a three-stroke margin over runner-up Florida International.

FIU's Courtney Burdick, a freshman via Largo High, tied for 25th with rounds of 78-79-75-232. Seminole High grad Lavana Davis of host Miami was held out of the tournament due to an injury.

Former Times Player of the Year Jenny Gleason (Clearwater High), a sophomore at UNC-Greensboro, led the Spartans in scoring in last weekend's Byran National Collegiate in Summit, N.C. In the 17-school tournament won by Duke, Gleason finished tied for 23rd with rounds of 77-73-74-224.

Notre Dame captain Shane Smith (Shorecrest Prep) placed third for the Irish in last month's Snowbird Intercollegiate at Pebble Creek in Tampa. She shot 82-78 for a 160.

JUNIORS: Brittany Lincicome, 15, of Pinellas Park is entered in this weekend's American Junior Golf Association tournament in Braselton, Ga. She was the Times' 2000 Pinellas Player of the Year and named to the All-Suncoast first team as a freshman for Osceola High School.

In two AJGA events last year, Lincicome won and had a runner-up finish. She's the leading scorer among girls for the 2000 season in the Florida Junior Golf Association.

Hochul Kim of Clearwater leads boys 15-18 and Sam Rosati of Oldsmar leads boys 12-14 in a Pinellas sweep of the top positions.

STATE CHAMPIONHIP: Rick Kerper of Safety Harbor and partner Doug LaCrosse shot 65 for second place behind winners (64) Richard Henken of Gainesville and John Robinson of Orlando in the championship flight of the FSGA's Winter Series Mid-Senior Four-Ball at Citrus Springs last week.

CLUBS: Countryside Country Club members raised a net $40,000 for the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens at its March 31 LOVE FORE tournament.

The winning team in the Palmer Flight consisted of Melody Figurski, Jerry Figurski, Dave Anderson and Linda Anderson. The Nicklaus Flight was won by Jim Parker, Tom Oddo, Keith Olivit and Charles Hilleboe.

NORTH FLORIDA PGA: At Howey-In-The-Hills, the team of Jim Slattery and Peter Warhurst of Belleair Country Club finished tied for fifth in the net division with Frank Reynolds and Peter Bass of The Eagles with better-ball scores of 65 on March 27.

COMING UP: The Pinellas Men's Interclub Association meets Thursday at 12:30 at Belleview Biltmore.

The County Golf Association meets at Seminole Lake on Thursday at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The Florida State Golf Association's Senior Championship is scheduled for April 17-19 at Riverwood Golf Club in Port Charlotte. Entries are closed.

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