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Gators have bright future with area's best

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


TAMPA -- A former state champion and three-time runner-up, Whitney Code ranks among the most successful players in the history of Florida high school golf.

Recently, she found herself in even more select company.

LPGA Tour players Sally Dee and Leslie Spalding asked the Chamberlain senior to join them for nine holes at Avila Golf Club.

"It was neat to be able to compare my game to theirs and see where I need to improve," Code said.

C.D. Gaughan, Avila's director of teaching and Code's instructor for the past seven years, said Code's game measured up to those of her playing partners.

"She was longer than Leslie," Gaughan said of Code, who drives the ball between 240 and 245 yards. "But no one's longer than Sally (whose 261-yard drives are fourth-longest on the Tour)."

It's too early to tell if Code will one day join Dee and Spalding on the pro tour. But there's no question where she stands among her peers.

At the Class 2A tournament, Code shot a two-day score of 1-under-par 143 on Nov. 7-8 on the Dunes Course at Sandridge Golf Course, finishing five shots behind Estero's Catherine Cartwright. Her finish, coupled with the fifth-place showing of her sister, Mallory, helped Chamberlain to a third consecutive state title.

"I was a little disappointed, but I put together two decent rounds," said Code, who shot 70 and 73. "I can't be too unhappy with that."

Code was at her best at the Region 4 tournament, firing a 5-under 67 at Willowbrook Golf Club. Appropriately, it was the only time Gaughan got to see her compete during the high school season.

"If she would have putted, she would have shot 60," Gaughan said. "Everything was down the middle and in there tight."

Code called the round one of the best of her high school career.

Other highlights include the 67 she shot on her way to winning the Class 6A state championship in the spring of her sophomore year, the 67 at the Western Conference tournament last season and the 70 on the first day of the state tournament her freshman year.

Gaughan said Code's behavior on and off the course is what separates her from most players.

"When she gets inside the ropes, she'll do whatever it takes to beat you," he said. "But then if she doesn't beat you, she'll be the first one to extend her hand and congratulate you.

"She's just the epitome of a sports athlete the way it should be." A home-schooled student who scored 1520 on the SAT, Code competed for Chamberlain under an FHSAA rule that permits home-schooled students to represent their zoned school.

Code narrowed a list of about 15 interested colleges to four (Georgia, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Florida) before orally committing to the Gators in October.

She said she will miss high school competition.

"It's kind of sad in a way," she said.

"But I'm really ready to move on and get on with college stuff, so I'm really excited about that."

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