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Speight sticks to her game plan, wins West Coast title

By DAVE THEALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


Six years ago when Kathy Speight took up the game of golf, she played to a 27 handicap.

Last week, playing to a 3 handicap, she battled cold and windy conditions at Feather Sound Country Club to win the 54th annual West Coast Women's Golf Association Championship.

Speight, 39, was playing on her home course and was tagged with the added responsibility of serving as tournament director for the annual event that attracted 90 golfers from the bay area, including Citrus and Manatee counties.

In her fifth championship tournament appearance, Speight walked off the green on the 36th hole shaking hands with defending champion Mary Ann Petrillo of Tierra Verde thinking she was congratulating the winner since she (Speight) had a costly double bogey on the 17th hole.

In a strange twist, Petrillo thought she was congratulating her friend Speight because she (Petrillo) had three-putted the 18th hole for a bogey.

The truth was, neither was right -- they were tied after 36 holes with 154 scores.

"That was a surprise to me," Speight said. "I make a point of not keeping score, especially of my opponents. I just try to play my game one stroke at a time."

On the first playoff hole, the 455-yard par-5 first, Speight drove into the left rough, hit her second shot within 80 yards, then pitched to the back fringe 12 feet past the hole.

Petrillo drove down the middle, hit a 4-metal to within 40 yards, then pitched onto the green 12 feet short. Her first putt went 4 or 5 feet past, and she missed it coming back for the bogey.

Speight putted from the fringe to within a few inches for a tap-in par and the win.

"Knowing the course was definitely an asset," said Speight, who played high school field hockey, basketball and track (state champion in the 100-yard dash) in Litchfield, Conn., before going on to Boston University. "But as the tournament director, I had done a lot of work setting it up and had a lot of concerns and a few issues. I tried to block those out and just concentrate on my game and playing smart.

"I've been into meditation the past couple of years and that helps me relax and play the game I have -- not to press or gamble or be intimidated by what others are doing. "It's wonderful to win and it's helped my confidence going into the Sarasota City Championship this weekend," Speight added. "What I learned from the West Coast win was to play the game you have today; stay calm and let things happen, don't try to make things happen."

TOURNAMENT NOTES: Petrillo said her putter let her down in the tournament, something she has been having trouble with lately. Besides battling the same adverse weather conditions at Feather Sound, Petrillo said the greens there gave her a problem.

"The greens at Feather Sound are smaller and hard, causing the balls to run off," she said.

Petrillo made an unsuccessful defense of her Sarasota Women's Amateur title last weekend. Fran Parsons of the Renaissance Vinoy recovered from an opening-round 93 to shoot 80 on the second day for a 173 total and medalist honors in Flight D. MOONLIGHT TOUR: Nick Klassen of Dunedin continued his winning ways on the mini-tour scene, winning the April 7 Moonlight Tour event at the USF course with a 2-under 69, good for $200. COLLEGE UPDATE: Freshman Jenny Gleason (Clearwater) led her UNC-Greensboro team in scoring at the recent Green Wave Classic in New Orleans. On a par-73 course, she shot 77-75-77-229 to tie for fifth among 75 players from 15 colleges. Gleason was the Times 1999 spring player of the year.

Lavana Davis (Seminole High), the Times 1998 player of the year, finished second among Miami Hurricanes at the Ryder Women's Challenge at Miami Lakes, shooting 76-78-84-238 to tie for 16th among 75 players.

Ryan Gildersleeve (Clearwater) has moved to the No. 1 position on the South Alabama golf team. Coming off two sub-par, top-10 tournament finishes, Gildersleeve slipped to a tie for 24th in last weekend's Billy Hitchcock Invitational at Auburn with rounds of 71-75-78-224. He'll lead the Jaguars at the Sun Belt Conference tournament at Arkansas State April 24-26.

THIS WEEKEND: The first Anthony Abbarno Golf Tournament, in memory of the the former Clearwater resident who died on Feb. 1, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Andrews Links off Alt. 19 in Dunedin. It's a four-person scramble on the par-3 course, preceded by lunch at 12:30. The cost is $30, which will benefit Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Largo. Call Greg Abbarno at 461-9777.

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