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Belleair pro Ziats on a roll with two wins in two weeks

By DAVE THEALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2000


May has been a good month for pro golfer R.J. Ziats of Belleair.

Two weeks ago he won the PGA's West Central Chapter Championship at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto. Then Sunday he won the pro division of the chapter's pro-am tournament at Mangrove Bay with a 3-under-par 69.

Ziats, 33, overcame a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 15th at Black Diamond and a two-stroke deficit to take the prestigious title and a check for $1,675 among a field of 70 contenders. The 36-hole match went to extra holes after Ziats followed his opening round of 72 with a 75 for a 147 total. Steve Hanlon, a pro at Highlands Reserve in Davenport, shot 74-73-147 to force the playoff.

After they parred the first playoff hole, Ziats two-putted from 20 feet on the next to secure the win.

Ziats, a native of Rochester, N.Y., played collegiately at Florida State and later served as an assistant pro at Belleair Country Club. Most recently, he served as a teaching pro at the All-In-One Practice and Learning Center in Largo.

Westchase head pro and chapter president Clay Thomas said he wasn't at all surprised at the success of Ziats.

"R.J. has had a lot of experience on the Nike Tour and other mini tours," Thomas said. "He gets to play a lot more competitive golf than most of us club professionals. That definitely helps him."

MORE PRO-AM: In Sunday's tournament at Mangrove Bay, Michael Bell, an assistant pro at Pasadena Yacht and Country Club, was a stroke off Ziats' pace with a 2-under 70. Terry Decker of Lakewood tied with Dave Creighton of Northdale with 71s, followed by Buck Thornbury of Seminole Lake and Lanier Waters of Bardmoor with 72s.

Waters was a member of the co-winning team with Richard Hope of Lakewood Country Club, Louis Rodriguez and Jennifer Austin. In a format where teams score their low gross and low net ball, they shot 126 to tie a team headed by Seminole Lake head pro Bruce Chaleff.

Wentworth head pro Paul Coe was a member of the third-place team, a stroke back.

U.S. OPEN QUALIFIER: Coe suffered a severe muscle cramp on the 16th hole at Innisbrook's Island course as he was entering a bunker during the local qualifier.

He proceeded to bogey the hole to fall to 1-under, but managed to par the final two holes to post a final-round 1-under 71 and earn one of the final two spots with veteran PGA Tour pro Andy Bean of Lakeland.

Amateur Rick Kerper, a member at Countryside Country Club, also advanced to a sectional qualifier, having won in a five-way playoff for four spots in the Open qualifier at Hunter's Green. Kerper shot 1-under 71.

Kyle Christman, a senior at Seminole High, shot 77 at Disney's Magnolia course on Thursday, missing the cut for one of the six qualifiying spots there. Christman, the Times 1999 Pinellas player of the year, has entered the Florida State Men's Amateur Championship. He will attend Winthrop College in South Carolina next fall.

JUNIOR UPDATE: Christman won the boys 16-18 age division of the Greater Tampa Junior Golf Association's annual Tournament of Champions for the second consecutive year with a 71-71-142. It was held at Sun City on May 13-14.

Shaun Porter of Valrico won the overall title with 69-71-140.

Tampa's Mallory Code, 15, won the girls title with 68-72-140. Pinellas Park's Brittany Lincicome took the 13-15 title (68-74-142), one stroke better than Whitney Code's winning score in the girls 16-18 division.

WOMEN: Mary Ann Petrillo of Tierra Verde shot a 1-under 71 to win the West Coast Women's Golf Association weekly match at Tara Country Club in Bradenton.

PINELLAS INTERCLUB: Host club East Lake Woodlands shot 10-under at last week's ninth monthly match to stake a strong claim for the 1999-2000 title with one match to play.

Ed McCallum and Bob Malbin led the way with a net 62 in a better-ball format, which tied with Bob Detlor and Bud Daly of Seminole Lake and Blaine Jensen and Bob Mansfield of Wentworth.

East Lake Woodlands pro Glenn Shurts shot 74, low for the day, along with John Falcone of Dunedin Country Club.

The final match and annual banquet will be held at the Vinoy on June 8 at 12:30 p.m.

AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP: Jerry Huston, father of PGA Tour pro John Huston, teammed with Rick Kerper to win the Innisbrook Two-Man tournament on May 14. They shot 65-69-134 to beat high school players Danny Allen (Tarpon Springs) and James Boothe (Palm Harbor) by a stroke.

TAP-INS: Former JCPenney tournament director Tom Jewell, who turned 70 on May 10, shot a 5-under 67 on May 12 at Myrtle Beach, S.C. He had four birdies and an eagle, sinking a 155-yard approach shot on a par-4 hole.

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