Patrick Olive stood on the first tee at Palma Ceia Country Club in Tampa on Feb. 26 and stared down the wide-open fairway. It was the first round of the elite Gasparilla Invitational amateur tournament, and several players from the morning round had gathered to watch the afternoon groups tee off.
Olive, 38, took a practice swing, addressed the ball and smacked it right down the middle. When you've played in the big leagues like Olive has, even if it was for two days in 2008, hitting your first drive at an amateur tournament is no big deal.
It has been two years since the Tarpon Springs High School graduate won the Gasparilla Invitational, and what a year to do it. In 2008, the winner of the tournament gained entrance into the PGA's PODS Championship (now Transitions Championship) at Innisbrook. For a week he got to walk inside the ropes. He could hang with some of the world's best in the locker room and clubhouse.
In his first two rounds he played with Chez Reavie and Parker McLachlin. It didn't go well on the course. He missed the cut after rounds of 84-82. But for two days he was in a professional tournament, two more days than most golfers.
"Never forget it,'' Olive said. "It's a shame that I didn't play well. It was nerve-wracking, but that's to be expected. If I ever get the opportunity to do it again I'll know what to expect. But overall, it was a blast, an absolute blast.''
Since then he lost one job when his company folded and has started his own business, First Rate Advisors, a credit card processing business. His business has mostly kept him away from the golf course, although he finds time to play two to three times a week.
He didn't finish in the top 10 at the Gasparilla in 2009. But this year he finished second behind Tampa's Peter Dachisen. His hope is to find more tournaments to play in 2010.
"I plan on playing more this year,'' Olive said. "I hope to get into the U.S. amateur and play some more FSGA events. My business has occupied my time right now, but once I get that up and running I plan to play more.''
The County Golf Association's weekly tournament was held at East Lake's North Course on Feb. 25. Noi Chay and Ken Palladino won the regular gross division with 71. The senior division gross winners were Del Scheffler and Mark Wheaton, who shot 70. The overall net winners were Art Sauve and Steve Tarkowski, who shot 65. The ladies net winners were Lori Gill and Carolyn Murphy, who shot 66.
• The Largo Golf Course biweekly scramble was Feb. 27. The scramble, which is open to the public, had a total of 10 teams (38 players). The team of Billy Wallace (Largo), Bill White (Largo), Jack Bartell (Indian Shores) and Ed Noble (Madeira Beach) won the event with a score of 49, 13 under par.
• The Cypress Run mixed team championship was held on Feb. 28. The overall gross champions were John Damm and Jan Bork, who shot 76. Overall net champions were Mike and Susan Powell, who shot 64.
• Aaron Watson of St. Petersburg participated in a Florida Junior Tour tournament in Tallahassee on Feb. 27-28. He shot a two-round total of 146 and placed fourth.
The West Coast Super Senior Grand Prix was held at St. Petersburg Tennis Center on Feb. 22-27. The men's 55 singles winner was Rick Workman. The 60 singles winner was Gewan Maharaj, the 65 winner was Reinaldo Valor, the 70 winner was Fred Farzanegan, the 75 winner was George McCabe, the 80 winner was Joe Beeson, the 85 winner was John Redgrave and the 90 winner was Edmond Heisler.
• The Countryside Junior Local Championship was held Feb. 27-March 1 at Countryside Country Club. The girls 18 singles winner was Anastasia Nefedova, the 16 winner was Kimberly Herrock, the 14 winner was Rachel Rohrabacher, the 12 winner was Julia Gabay and the 10 winner was Bianca Leigh. The boys 18 singles winner was Vincent Bovet, the 16 winner was Ross Quarles, the 14 winner was Justin Hall, the 12 winner was Dean Lagattuta and the 10 winner was Ryan Ogburn.
Victory Gymnastics Training Center of Oldsmar competed in the Gasparilla Classic on Feb. 27-28. In Level 9, Lindsey Walker won first place all-around. In Level 8, Lindsey Christianson was first in vault and all-around. Haley McHone was first in all-around. In Level 7, Brookelyn McGauley was first in floor exercise. Grace Poynter was first in vault and Alyssa Piccari was first in vault and bars.
• Apollo Gymnastics also competed in the Gasparilla event in St. Petersburg. Boys Level 3 winner was Xander Lee (floor exercise). Level 4 winners were Hayden McManus (floor, pommel horse, rings, parallel bars, high bar, all-around) and Andreas Thompson (vault). Level 5 winner was Jacob Day (parallel bars). Level 6 winner was Christopher Swan (floor, rings) Level 8 winner was Nick Kelton (parallel bars). Girls Level 2 winners were Shayna Walker (floor) and Kaylyn Goehl (vault). Level 3 winners were Andrea Ticsa (vault, beam all-around), Eva Lago (vault), Veronica Gallo (vault) and Anna Mink (beam, all-around). Level 4 winners were Eve Speilman (vault, bars, beam, floor, all-around), Sydney Nedley (floor), Lindsay Porter (floor) and Jerrica Rubinett (beam, floor, all-around). In Level 5, the Apollo team was first overall. Winners were Sophie Woodward (bars, beam, floor, all-around), Kaya Susuico (floor) and Alicia Follis (bars). In Level 7, the team was first overall. Winners were Lillian Zeman (vault, bars, floor, all-around), Natasha Fulton (beam, floor) and Lucia Russo (beam). In Level 8, Brooklynn Fregeau was first on beam.
• LaFleur's Gymnastics Club of Largo sent its Level 8, 9, and 10 teams to compete in the Buckeye Classic Feb. 19-21 in Ohio. The Level 8 team placed first. Individual winners were Bailey Schwingdorf (bars, all-around), Amanda Ismaili (vault), Jenna Cashmore (vault, bars, floor, all-around) and Jasmine Kauffman (beam, floor, all-around). Level 9 individual winners were Meghan Brannon (bars) and Riley Thompson (bars). The Level 10 individual winner was Sarena Bumbarger (vault, beam, floor, all-around). The Level 7 and Prep Optional team competed at the Gasparilla Classic. Level 7 individual winner was Stephanie Bratic (vault, floor). The Prep Optional individual winners were Hannah Nestler (vault) and Alexa Matessich (all-around).
Megan Polski, 11, won a class championship at the Dr. Penrich Eye Opener tournament at the Clearwater Horseshoe Club in February. Polski was 6-0 in competition against senior players and last year's Florida State Junior champion, Leyland Reynolds. Polski will pitch in the Florida State Championships April 24-27 in Melbourne.
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com