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It's more fun than competition for top trio


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 3, 2000

TARPON SPRINGS -- So much of high school athletics is blood, sweat, tears and big doses of emotion. Bumps, bruises, scraped knees and dirty uniforms are the order of the day. Golf is different.

A match involving three of the county's best players is more like a Sunday morning round with no more on the line than who buys the Cokes at the end.

David Cosper (Countryside), Mark Welsh (East Lake) and Danny Allen (Tarpon Springs) have been playing against each other in junior golf events for years. So playing as a threesome on a recent afternoon, they felt as much friends as competitors.

"I love playing with those guys," Welsh said. "We've known each other for a long time. We're all wishing the best for each other. As long as we all play well, it's fun."

Welsh and Allen each shot a one-over-par 37 for nine holes. Cosper struggled early and shot 40. Countryside won the tournament, shooting 148. East Lake shot 153 and Tarpon Springs 173.

Playing in the first group as their teams' No. 1 players, Cosper, Welsh and Allen spent most of the round talking about golf, school and their futures. There was the usual ribbing, like when Cosper tried to cut the corner on the par-5 16th and ended up in the 15th fairway.

"You wimps," Cosper shouted to them. "You talked me into doing it, and now you're going to play it safe?"

Maybe that's why none of them shot the low round of the day. That honor went to Countryside sophomore Matt Izel, who shot 2-under-par 34.

"I talk too much," Cosper said. "I get with those guys, and we're talking. And it's hard to concentrate. I was telling them that on any day, we can come out here and shoot 66. But we need to learn how to focus a little harder. I like playing with them, and if this was an AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) tournament, it would've been different. But out here, we're just talking and having a good time."

It's a safe bet all three, as well as East Lake's Brad Quiri, who sometimes plays as the Eagles' top golfer, will make an impact at the district tournament. Each also has a shot to win a state title. But on this overcast afternoon, it was all about having fun.

"Between shots, we're talking about a bunch of things," Allen said. "But when you play with guys like that, it makes you play better because they're always hitting good shots."

DISTRICT SITE SELECTED: The Class 2A, District 9 district tournament will be played at the River Club in Bradenton on Oct. 23. There are 14 schools in the district, and the top four teams along with the top four individuals not on those top four teams will advance to regionals.

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