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Golfer finds right balance of life, game

Michael Barbosa is happier now that he is playing golf on his terms — which isn’t to say he wouldn’t love to win a U.S. Amateur title: “That would be the absolute peak.”

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Michael Barbosa is happier now that he is playing golf on his terms — which isn’t to say he wouldn’t love to win a U.S. Amateur title: “That would be the absolute peak.”

Michael Barbosa has had a pretty good August.

Barbosa, a St. Petersburg native who played college golf at Georgia Tech, qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship on Aug. 5. He earned medalist honors at a qualifying tournament on the Old Course at Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton. Barbosa shot a two-day total of 135 to defeat Tommy Parker by one. The U.S. Amateur tournament is this week at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

On Aug. 11, Barbosa, 25, qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship by shooting 70 at Lake Jovita Country Club. He will play in the tournament, which is for post-college players 25 years and older, on Sept. 6-11 in Milwaukee. Richard Kerper of Safety Harbor also qualified after shooting 71.

For Barbosa, it was two prestigious tournaments in two weeks. Not bad for someone who didn't really pick up his clubs until mid-July.

"I wasn't surprised. I thought I could do it,'' Barbosa said. "I didn't want to put any limitations on myself. I just wanted to play as best I could and if it's good enough, fine, and if not you just sign up next year.''

There was a time when golf meant everything to Barbosa. He was a standout at tradition-rich Bradenton St. Stephen's Academy before going to Georgia Tech. He was sure golf would be his future, and he practiced daily with visions of being on the PGA Tour.

But the grind, even on the college level, started to wear on him. By his senior year, he was thinking law school was a much better option. He returned to St. Petersburg after graduation and lives with his parents while attending Stetson Law School in Gulfport.

"For the majority of the time in college I thought I would turn professional,'' Barbosa said. "But when I decided on how I wanted to live my life, I decided against it.''

With one year of school behind him and two to go, Barbosa has to cram in as much golf as he can during the summer. Once school begins, he said he has very little time to play.

"There aren't many days during the year that I can take four or five hours and play golf,'' Barbosa said. "I can practice an hour here or an hour there. I try to keep as sharp as I can while going to law school.''

Barbosa plans to spend the rest of his golfing days as an amateur. He no longer thinks about playing on the PGA Tour. He plays when he wants and plays in only the amateur tournaments he chooses.

"I put a lot less pressure on myself,'' he said. "Golf went from being the most important thing in my life to probably the third or fourth most important thing. There's family and school and then golf a distant third. I think you could attribute that to some of my good play. I'm more relaxed, a lot more fresh. College was a grind.''

After the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Barbosa said he will put the clubs away and refocus on school. But once summer rolls around, he'll continue to play in elite amateur tournaments.

And he hopes one day his resume will include a U.S. Amateur championship.

"That would be the absolute peak,'' Barbosa said.

Tennis

Treasure Island's Luke Burton made it to the final of the Sarasota Local Summer Juniors on Aug. 9-11. He lost to Leonid Ahmed 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). Largo's Logan Weyand, the only other Pinellas County player in the field, lost in the semifinals of the boys 14 singles.

• The East Lake Summer Local Junior Championships were held Aug. 9-11 at East Lake Woodland Country Club. Miguel Gimeno defeated Bryant Fuller in the boys 18 singles. Albert Sala defeated top seed Michael Beiler in the boys 16 singles, Tristan Kaye won the boys 14 singles over Edgar Sanchez, Mason Beiler defeated Jorge Ramirez in the boys 12 singles and Juan Pablo Ramirez won the boys 10 singles over Italo Rosasco. In the girls divisions, Carole Julen won the 18 division over Solange La Puente, Elizabeth Means defeated top seed Tijana Subotic in the 16 division, Alexandra Kitchen won the 14 singles over Yasmin Franco, Jeannez Daniel defeated top seed Carolin Lazo in the 12 singles, and Jaeda Daniel won the girls 10 singles over Alexis Franco.

• The Hot Hot Hot Rookie Tournament was held in Largo on Aug. 9-10. In the boys division, Marco Andres Pineda defeated Michael Girardi in the 16 singles, Juan Munoz beat Kendall Drake in the 14 singles, Joseph Bianco was the round-robin champion in the 12 singles and Thomas Harmon defeated Dilan Scargle in the 10 singles final. In the girls division Brianna Couture was the 16 singles champ, Maria Chadili won the 14 singles over Alexandra Jones, Casey Pluchino defeated Tori Crumbley in the 12 singles and Morenike Fashoro won the 10 singles round robin.

Kickball

There will be a coed tournament Sept. 13 at Woodlawn Park in St. Petersburg. Those interested should call Andre Simmons at 320-4943.

Rodney Page can be reached at page@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8810.

Golfer finds right balance of life, game 08/16/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2008 4:38am]

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