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Coach quits after rules dispute

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


TAMPA -- Wharton coach Lee Gonzalez resigned his position Tuesday one day after his team finished third in a controversial Class 2A, Region 4 tournament in Lakeland.

The final straw for Gonzalez, who coached the Wildcats for two seasons including last year's state tournament appearance, came Monday after he disputed a rule interpretation during the region final at Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland.

Gonzalez said four Lakeland High players teed off on the No. 1 hole after they had finished their rounds, despite the fact that four groups remained on the course. Gonzalez brought the matter to the tournament's Committee of Appeals, which is made up of head coaches from participating teams.

The committee decided not to penalize the Dreadnaughts, who finished second and advanced to next week's state tournament.

"It's a breach of the rules," said Gonzalez, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel. "They say you can not go out and practice on the course while the competition is still going on. I don't agree with their decision, but I will abide by it.

"How can I tell my kids to go out and play by the rules when they know there is a double standard out there? Integrity is the cornerstone of a Marine. I can't tell my kids one thing and have (officials) do another."

Gonzalez retired from the Marines in 1983 after 25 years of service.

After that he worked at East Bay High as an occupational specialist for 14 years.

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