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    Henson, O'Neale Jr. go down memory lane

    By PHIL GULICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 2000


    Dana Henson and Harry O'Neale Jr. shook hands more than once during the Southwest Design PBA Southern Regional Tournament at Countryside Lanes in Clearwater last weekend.

    Their first handshake renewed a long-standing business friendship when Henson worked as the Southern Regional public relations director for O'Neale.

    "Dana was a terrific PR man, and we had many great times together," O'Neale recalled.

    While O'Neale continued his long reign as regional director, Henson moved on to other endeavors. Henson twice owned Lakeland's Orange Bowl -- the second time to save it from extinction.

    "I've done a lot of things in life, but running Orange Bowl and working with Harry were great experiences," Henson said.

    Henson's successful resurrection of Orange Bowl caught the eye of Lakeland's Socia Enterprises, owners of that center and Countryside Lanes.

    Henson became Socia's director of operations with almost carte blanche to convert Countryside from a doghouse to its new look.

    "We had much work to do after we bought the center off the courthouse steps (in Pinellas County)," Henson recalled.

    "And we still have some things to do," he said, "like replacing the ceiling and other minor touches."

    Henson's seasoned eye is apparent in the center's bright decor of new concourse furniture and carpeting, remodeled game room, lounge and control desk, Cosmic Bowl lighting and new masking units.

    Bowlers who deserted during Countryside's dog days have returned, and general manager Keith Nichols gets phone calls from local proprietors accusing him of stealing leagues.

    "Heck, we just rejuvenated the place, opened the doors and they all came back," Nichols said.

    Patti and Warren Farren, sponsors of the regional and owners of Southwest Design Furniture in Tarpon Springs, are among the bowlers who returned.

    "When Dana and Keith mentioned that the regional would be here, I thought sponsoring it would be great fun and help boost our business," Warren said.

    It had been nearly four years since O'Neale and his southern region players visited Pinellas County -- a Southland Lanes stop won by Clermont's Jason Couch.

    While Orange Bowl has played host to the tournament for years, Pinellas withdrew when other proprietors had neither the inclination nor the funds to book the tour.

    "We knew we could change that here at Countryside right after we bought it," Henson said.

    Tampa Bay area players dominated this year's two-day regional.

    Darin Hays won the title, $2,500 and a colorful bald eagle statue donated by the Farrens.

    "It's one of the more interesting trophies I've ever won," Hays said.

    "We shook hands over the contract to bring not only the national and regional pros back here, but to combine them with PBA Senior tour players next year," O'Neale said.

    SHUT OUT: For the first time in four years, no Pinellas County team won a title in the state high school tournament.

    The Palm Harbor University High girls squad, the Pinellas County High School League scratch champion, finished second to champion Apopka on Saturday at Lake Worth.

    Palm Harbor beat University High, Lake Brantley and Okeechobee to reach the final.

    The Gibbs High boys, the defending state Open Division champions, and Palm Harbor boys were ousted in the first round.

    Dixie Hollins lost to Southwest in the second round. Orlando Boone won the boys championship.

    GATES WINS: Largo's Nick Gates won the AA Scratch Division title and $400 college scholarship money in the Youth Bowlers Tour at Brandon Lanes last weekend. Shawn Ryan finished third.

    In B Division, Teresa Scanlon was fourth and earned $50. Brett Ritenour was fourth in the C Division for $50.

    Jessica Robinson and Scott Meredith made the National Junior Gold Tournament field in a qualifier in Spring Hill.

    The Fireballs, with Vincent Sadowski's 83 game, lead the Young Olympians at Countryside Lanes.

    The Pin Heads, who received a 180-455 from Joseph May, are atop the Junior Olympic league with a 67-38 mark. Team 10 is the Olympians leader at 79-26. Team 2 is in second, thanks to Brian Bright's 244-587.

    Ryan rolled a 257-717 to keep Team 1 in first in the Elite League. He leads the Gold Singles with a 79-19 mark.

    Jamie Potter heads the girls Gold Singles at 69-29. Team 13 is the B.C. Junior Gold leader at 90-30.

    AROUND THE LANES: The Bowlers Club will have a handicap singles tournament 3 p.m. Sunday at Skyway Lanes. The entry fee is $15. Lynn Wharran, Cliff Aldrich and Charlie Finch Jr. shot 299 games at Liberty Lanes. Jay Snively rolled a 300-727 at Largo Lanes. Tampa's Lucy Giovinco, a seven-time Team USA member, is in Reno, Nev., in the USA Bowling Championships trying for another berth on the squad. Entries, $550 per team, are available for the Brunswick World Team Challenge, Jan.20-21 at Seminole Lanes. The format has changed considerably. For more information, call the center, 392-2271.

    -Phil Gulick can be reached at xerxes6@aol.com or xerxes6@juno.com.

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