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By DAVE THEALL
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
An aspiring young professional golfer from Tarpon Springs has passed the first hurdle of the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament for the 2001 season.
Michael Koulianos shot rounds of 70-70-73-72 for a 3-under 285 at Pensacola Country Club, advancing to a second-stage qualifier next week in Beaumont, Calif.
Koulianos, 23, a 1996 graduate of Tarpon Springs High School, said his short game in general, and putting in particular, enabled him to get the results he needed.
"My ball striking was good as well as my overall course management," said Koulianos, who played for the Florida Gators.
"Significantly, I played the finishing holes well, which means a lot to me," he said. "I'm confident going into this next stage that I can reach the finals and qualify for the tour."
Koulianos, a teaching pro at the famous David Leadbetter Academy in Orlando, attributes much of his success to working closely with former Innisbrook pro Blaik Shew.
"Working with Blaik has helped me a lot," Koulianos said.
"Since I tried for the tour last year, I've been trying harder to stay focused on the process, not the results. That's the key to low scoring. In addition, I'm hungrier this year.
"I know I can compete on that level," Koulianos said. "I have goals, and they include winning on tour. That's my dream, and I'm willing to push myself hard to achieve my goals."
Koulianos said he has learned a lot about his game by teaching others and realizing everyone learns differently.
At the first stage qualifier in Pensacola, Koulianos had an opportunity to have a professional caddie but chose his father, Theo, a Tarpon businessman, on the bag.
"I'm more comfortable with my father caddying for me," Koulianos said. "What you gain in knowledge with a pro caddie you sometimes lose in comfort.
"With my Dad, I'm at peace. Furthermore, my parents have sacrificed a lot for me to strive for my goals in life. I think it's fun for him to be with me out there. I see the twinkle in his eye."
NOTES: The final stage of Q-School, and the most rigorous with all the 2000 tour also-ran players, is scheduled for Nov. 29 -- Dec. 4 at PGA West, La Quinta, Calif. The top 35 finishers earn full exemption for the 2001 PGA Tour. The remaining finalists get Buy.com Tour cards.
Seminole's Marc Prestipino competed in the Pensacola first-stage qualifier.
After getting off to a bad start with an 82, he settled down and shot rounds of 74-73-75 for a 304.
"I had some bad breaks early on," said Prestipino, an assistant pro at Cove Cay Country Club. "But it was a great experience worth its weight in gold."
Dan Stone of St. Petersburg, a former All-American at Florida, missed the first-stage qualifying cut of 281 at World Woods on Oct. 20, as did Matt Saglio (Florida Southern) of Clearwater.
At the LPGA Q-School in Daytona, 14 players earned exempt status.
Marilyn Lovander of St. Petersburg carded a 296, missing out, as did former Pinellas Park resident Beth Bauer of Duke University fame.
Former Largo resident Michelle Vinieratos (UF) missed the cut, as did Palm Harbor's Sue Florin, who played for USF under the name Susan Veasey.
Jay Overton, former director of golf at the Westin Innisbrook Resort, is entered in the Senior PGA Tour Q-School at Metro West in Orlando, starting today through Friday.
COLLEGE: Kyle Christman, the Times 1999 Pinellas Player of the Year, was low scorer for Winthrop (75-74-149) at the windy Seascape Collegiate Tournament in Kitty Hawk, N.C.
JUNIORS: Brittany Lincicome of Pinellas Park won (79-72-151) the Florida Junior Golf Association Tournament in Crystal River last week.
Brad Quiri of East Lake High School tied for second (146) among boys.