Sunday, December 10, 2017
Golf

Brittany Lincicome, Gary Koch headline First Tee event at Babe Zaharias Golf Course

TAMPA — As Brittany Lincicome lined up her second shot at the second hole Thursday, a brute of an oak tree about 30 feet away blocked her path to the green.

The perfect opportunity, playing partner Gary Koch figured, for a little good-natured fun.

"You told me you could hit a hook," Koch said loud enough for spectators at Babe Zaharias Golf Course to hear. "Come on, these people want to see shots. Show us your big hook."

So Lincicome, from 150 yards, calmly steered her ball right-to-left to the fringe of the green.

"That's what it was about," Koch said later. "We're out here to have a good time and, hopefully, entertain the people a little bit for a good cause."

The fourth annual Battle at the Babe included eight pros, seven with local ties, split into four teams for a pair of four-ball matches to raise funds for the First Tee of Tampa Bay, which provides kids with educational and character-building programs tied to golf.

The locals: LPGA players Lincicome and Cindy LaCrosse; former LPGA player Sally Dee; eGolf Tour player Brad Brunner; T.J. Heidel, head pro at Tampa's Rogers Park Golf Course; Koch, a former PGA player now on the Champions Tour and an NBC golf analyst; and Jay McNair, also of Rogers Park and a former contestant on the Golf Channel's Big Break II. He filled in for PGA player John Huston, who has a bad shoulder.

LPGA player Kris Tamulis of Naples also participated.

For the record, LaCrosse and Brunner beat Lincicome and Koch. Tamulis and Heidel beat Dee and McNair.

Really, though, the results were secondary.

"I grew up in First Tee," said Heidel, who in 2009 started the Battle at the Babe as the pro at Babe Zaharias. "To be able to create something that enables me to give back is a dream come true."

Said Lincicome of Seminole, a five-time LPGA champion: "Anything you can do to raise money for the kids is a blessing. It's an honor to do what I do every day, and just to be able to give back my time a little bit and raise money for such a wonderful cause, it's kind of a no-brainer."

Laura Beuhring, director of golf at Babe Zaharias, said she hopes next year's event will feature 12 players. Heidel said he believes it can grow to 16. To facilitate that and draw a bigger crowd, the date will be moved to between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Thursday, despite some admitted offseason rust, the pros, in front of a crowd of about 150, put on a pretty good show.

Brunner of Tampa, who holds the Babe Zaharias course record of 58, sank a 35-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole.

Koch of Tampa cut the corner on No. 7, a 362-yard dogleg right, and drove the green.

But Lincicome's second shot on No. 2 after Koch's challenge was the shot of the day.

"He put me on the spot with every single person in the crowd," Lincicome, 27, said, laughing.

"And she hit the shot," Koch, 60, said with approval.

"I did," Lincicome added. "That was exciting."

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