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Gabriel going for spot in U.S. Open

He has been this close to qualifying many times before, but in his sectional Monday, only three of 61 players will advance.

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2000


Glenn Gabriel has been at this point before -- so many times he has lost track of how many.

The Spring Hill golfer, 39, is one good day of golf away from playing the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, Calif., in two weeks, joining the likes of Tiger Woods, David Duval and other stars. At the same time, by his count, he has been this close six or seven times before, so he's aware of how tough it will be to emerge from Monday's sectional qualifier.

Gabriel will be among 750 playing in a dozen sectional qualifiers competing for 88 spots -- more than half the 156-man field -- in the Open. He was to fly to West Palm Beach on Saturday to prepare for Monday's 36-hole tournament at Bear Lakes Country Club. He has played there before, but faces some of the toughest odds out of the 12 qualifiers: only three of the 61 golfers at Bear Lakes will advance to Pebble Beach.

"You'll see a lot of guys that are scared going into a tournament like this," Gabriel said. "You'll hear them say, "In reality, I've got no chance.' When a golfer admits that, then he's done. He has no chance."

Instead, Gabriel is trying to keep a low-key attitude and relative optimism heading into his first sectional qualifier in three years.

"The last time I played this tournament I was like a kid at Disney," he said. "The 36 holes went by so fast."

One thing that might help Gabriel is that he doesn't have the pressure of making a living on the links anymore. Three years ago, he gave up bouncing from one mini-tour to another, "tired of living in a suitcase," and he now works as a scrub tech at the Bonati Institute, a spinal surgery clinic in Hudson.

He's responsible for preparing rooms and instruments for surgery, and Gabriel said he has enjoyed this line of work much more than working as a club pro. By not being immersed in golf all week long, he has allowed himself to start enjoying the game again.

"I'm getting a little more comfortable with golf again, but I'll have to be a little more aggressive (at Bear Lakes), to go for a few more pins than I normally would," he said.

Gabriel tied for second in his local qualifier at the Westin Innisbrook in Palm Harbor last month, but he knows he'll be hard-pressed to repeat such success. This week's qualifier has made him think about his last attempt in 1997, the year his mother passed away. At a time when he's looking for any advantage he can find, he can find solace in knowing she'll be watching him Monday.

"I've got an angel on my shoulder this time," he said.

KIDS DAY: Silverthorn Country Club will conduct its sixth annual Golf for Kids Day on June 24 for the first 150 youths ages 6-17 who register.

Signups for the free clinic will be held through 5 p.m. June 17 at the club. No phone registration will be accepted.

All entrants receive a T-shirt, cap, hot dog, beverage, use of a golf club and three hours of instruction provided by Silverthorn's professional staff and other local pros.

Call (352) 799-2600 for more information.

OTHER TOURNAMENTS: The Hernando Builders Association Spike Club will host its annual four-man team golf scramble at 8 a.m. June 17 at Sherman Hills. Prizes will be awarded for the top three finishers, longest drive and closest to the pin. Call (352) 596-1114 for more information. ... The Kiwanis Club of Brooksville will host its annual invitational at 1 p.m. June 7 at Brooksville Golf & Country Club. The format is four-person team scramble. Entry fee is $55.

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