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Airman Jeff Kritsberg enjoys golf at Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am before call to war

Amateur Jeff Kritsberg chips from the rough as his caddie and father, Butch, looks on at No. 9.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Amateur Jeff Kritsberg chips from the rough as his caddie and father, Butch, looks on at No. 9.

LUTZ — Jeff Kritsberg is cherishing every second at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. He is one of 78 amateurs playing in the tournament, but he is the only one who is getting sent to war Monday morning.

A cyberspace communications operator in the Air Force, Kritsberg leaves MacDill Air Force Base on Monday for training in Wyoming. On April 28, his unit goes to Baghdad and the war in Iraq.

But today — and maybe Sunday if he and partner Leonard Thompson play well enough — Kritsberg, 38, will try to think only about golf, as he did Friday. He earned an amateur spot by being the low enlisted player at the MacDill tournament this year. He and Thompson shot a team score of 1-under 70, nine off the lead.

"It hasn't settled in yet," Kritsberg said of his deployment. "I think it will when I go home and see my bags packed. (Friday) I was just thinking about having a good time."

Kritsberg's father, Butch, came down from Syracuse, N.Y., to caddie for his son this week. He is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 1990. Butch introduced his son to golf at age 11 and played with him at various base golf courses. And he isn't thrilled about his son leaving.

"I'm not comfortable with it at all," Kritsberg's father said. "He's excited. He thinks it's the right thing to do. He's still bulletproof and wearing a cape. But for dear old dad, getting into harm's way is not my idea of a good time."

Kritsberg said he had a good time Friday despite playing poorly. And he said he's not thinking about Iraq yet, but when the time comes, he's ready to go.

"I know my wife, April, is worried, and pops is worried and so is my mom," Kritsberg said. "I haven't done this yet, and I'm excited to get over there and do my part. There are people who have been there over and over again. I've been begging to go since I was a lieutenant. It finally worked out. I don't think it will hit me until we get into the theater and we're wearing helmets."

Butch is just glad he's by his son's side on the golf course before he leaves.

"I couldn't have asked for a nicer send-off," he said as he held back tears. "He's a father's dream. I'm very proud of him."

'Dream team': Kenny Perry is reunited with his old caddie, again. Fred Sanders is back on Perry's bag after a year-and-a-half hiatus while Perry's son caddied for him. This is the fourth time Sanders has left and come back. The duo has won nine times together.

"We've got the dream team back together, and it's working," said Perry, who was in fourth place. "I think I'm moving in the right direction."

Odds and ends: Tom Leh­man's streak of 12 Champions Tour rounds in the 60s ended Friday. Lehman, who has won twice this year, shot 2-over 73. … Derrick Brooks, who won the amateur championship in 2008, is in the lead again with a team score of 10-under 61. The former Bucs linebacker is paired with tournament leader Russ Cochran. They are tied with Tim Simpson and Jeffrey Leimbacher. The top 16 teams after today play in Sunday's final round. … While Cochran got off to a fast start, Dave Eichelberger had the opposite kind of day. He started with triple bogey on the first hole and double bogey on the second. Over the next 16 holes, he had 10 bogeys and finished with 15-over 86.

Airman Jeff Kritsberg enjoys golf at Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am before call to war 04/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 15, 2011 11:12pm]

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