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Smooth greens, smooth sailing?

Wharton's boys team is full of talented putters who are eager for a state title and hoping for smooth, fast greens.

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2001


Wharton's boys team is full of talented putters who are eager for a state title and hoping for smooth, fast greens.

TAMPA -- Wharton coach John Benson stood at Lakeland's Lone Palm Golf Course on Monday and talked about his team's birdies the way most high school golf coaches talk about bogeys.

"We were getting them all over the place," Benson said. "They just kept coming and coming, one after the other."

No kidding. After six holes of play at the Class 2A, Region 5 tournament, Wharton was 9 under par with an eagle on a par-5 and another on a holed shot from the fairway.

"We were knocking down those pins," said Brian Wertz, the team's only senior.

"We felt like we had something to prove."

By day's end, the Wildcats had cooled off a bit, but still won with 3-over 291, or 11 shots ahead of second-place Lakeland.

"We're going to the state tournament," said Wertz, who shot 1-under 71 on Monday. "And we're going in there with a lot of confidence. We're going down there thinking that we have a chance to win."

The first round begins Tuesday and the second is Wednesday at Fort Pierce's Fairwinds Golf Club, a course the Wildcats hope has smooth, fast greens.

"So we can make more of those birdies," Benson said. "We love smooth greens. I mean, these guys can putt, man, can they ever putt.

"If the greens are smooth like they were at Lone Palm then I really believe that will be to our advantage."

The best putter among the Wildcats is probably Mike Giammaresi, who shot 2-under 70 at Lone Palm. But you also could make a strong argument for Wertz, David Tiffenberg, Barrett White or Patrick Gibson, all of whom are averaging better than 80 a round.

The only distraction in their title quest, and it appears to be a slight one, could come from Gibson, who Monday needed a court injunction before he could play in the regional.

The injunction stemmed from Gibson's disqualification a week earlier in the district tournament for tossing a ball in the water after carding a bogey on a hole. Officials said it was an outlandish display and cause for disqualification in the next two tournaments -- regionals and state.

Gibson, however, won the right to play with a court injunction, which he will have to get again on Monday before he will be eligible for Tuesday's opening round.

Benson said the court injunction has been a distraction for Gibson, whose 82 at regionals didn't count in his team's 291 total.

"(Gibson) will have to drive down behind the rest of the team on Monday because he has to go to court again," Benson said. "Hopefully he'll be there with us by Monday afternoon when we're into the practice round."

If Gibson can't play, Wharton will be able to substitute another player without penalty. Wharton's chances for an official team title will not be compromised by Monday's ruling, Benson said.

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