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By DAVE THEALL
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000
Players who need the fewest putts usually win.
And that's exactly how things played out in last week's County Golf Association match at Seminole Lake Country Club, although there was a different pattern.
Kip Dabbs of Hudson needed only 26 putts in his round of 1-over 73 to capture the regular championship. He made several long putts, including four in the 10-12-foot range just to save par.
However, Bill Isaacs was able to win the senior division for players 55 and over with 27 putts by virtue of the strength of his overall short game, including a save out of the bunker.
In all, he got up and down eight times by chipping tight to the pin.
"I'm playing the best golf of my life right now," said Isaacs, 60, a resident of Palm Harbor who has a 6 handicap. "I even had four lip-outs in that round."
Isaacs had four bogeys and one birdie, which couldn't have come at a better time.
On the par-4 18th, he hit his 6-iron approach shot from 150 yards to within 4 feet of the pin for a straight uphill putt, which he promptly drained for the birdie.
"One reason I'm playing better now is that I'm using more brains than brawn," Isaacs said. "That is, I'm paying more attention to keeping the ball in play -- especially off the tee -- to avoid trouble and double bogeys.
"You can offset an occasional bogey with a birdie, but those doubles just ruin your score.
"I only weigh 145 pounds so it's foolish for me to try to drive with some of these long hitters," Isaacs said. "Ray Goodman (tournament director) outdrives me by 60-70 yards, but I don't let that bother me now."
Isaacs said he started playing the game at age 14 but lost interest quickly. He started in earnest at 22. Isaacs played continuously without any formal instructions until he hooked up recently with Lou Smither of the Troon Golf Institute at the Westin Innisbrook Resort.
"Lou has been a big help to me with my setup and swing plane, emphasizing the importance of coming from the inside rather than over the top," Isaacs said.
"I've only had 5 or 6 lessons, but I plan to continue to go to him."
Isaacs has found a good CGA better-ball partner in George Lufkin, a Palm Harbor neighbor. They'll play in the CGA match at Seminole Lake on Jan. 11.
"We have good chemistry," Isaacs said. "I'm a little longer off the tee, and he has a good short game. We play well together."
Whether Isaacs wins or loses isn't the most important part, he said.
"Winning is just the result of playing well," Isaacs said. "I accept mistakes as part of the game; it all balances out. If I don't play well, I'm just as happy."
Dabbs had an uphill fight en route to his winning round of 73. He was in a field of 170 players who teed off in Thursday's morning and afternoon rounds.
Taking a bogey and double bogey after hitting in a creek in his first three holes, Dabbs had dug a big hole.
Instead of getting discouraged, Dabbs just said to himself: "I'm going to need some birdies to get back into this."
He did just that, birdieing the next hole then going 2-under on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 13 and 16.
"I had the putter going good," said Dabbs, 50, who played to a zero handicap up until five years ago and now is a nine.
"I've finally figured out these Florida greens, especially in the winter when they are over-seeded," said Dabbs, who moved here from Flint, Mich., last year. "I'm not leaving it short anymore.
"I notice when the players I'm with three-putt it's usually because they leave it short. My goal is to drive solid, keep it in play and hope for the best."
Officially, John King of Tampa finished second to Dabbs with a 74, followed by Danny Herrington of Largo with a 75.
However, Dabbs reports that Goodman, a former PGA Tour pro, shot 73 but didn't include himself in the results.
In the senior division, John Yaros of St. Petersburg finished second to Isaacs with a 77, followed by Bob Stump's 78, which held up in a match of scorecards.
Nan Sher of St. Petersburg won a concurrent women's event with a 98. Margaret Joyce of St. Pete Beach took net honors with a 68 based on a handicap of 32.
The CGA met Monday at Cypress Run.
The 800-member group returns to Seminole Lake on Jan. 4. Goodman promises some lucrative prizes, such as television sets and golf equipment.
To register, call 530-7226.
COLLEGE: Countryside High School graduate Marc Mitchell, who captained the 2000 University of Tampa Spartans, earned Sunshine State Conference honorable mention recognition.
He was named to the NCAA Division II Scholastic All-America team after compiling a 3.45 GPA in finance.
Mitchell plans to enroll in a master's degree program in fine arts this fall.
JUNIORS: The American Junior Golf Association has appointed Justin Leonard of the PGA Tour and Sherri Steinhauer of the LPGA Tour as national chairmen beginning in 2001.
Both are former AJGA All-Americans.
Leonard is best known for shocking the golf world in last year's Ryder Cup.
He drained a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole of The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., to halve the match with Jose Maria Olazabal and earn a decisive half-point.
HOLIDAY CARDS: The American Lung Association's four-state 2001 Golf Privilege Card is on sale.
It offers free or reduced greens fees at 700 courses in Florida and neighboring states.
The cards are $20 each, or you can buy three and get one free.
The card is valid May 1 through Oct. 31, 2001.
For phone orders, call 347-6133 in St. Petersburg, or visit the office at 6170 Central Ave.