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Despite aches, pains Huston stays positive for Transitions Championship

PALM HARBOR — John Huston is just trying to hang on. The Palm Harbor resident and Dunedin High graduate can see light at the end of the tunnel, and he wants to be healthy when he gets there.

Huston turns 50 on June 1, 2011, and that means a new life on the Champions Tour. His old life has been successful, but lately he has been forced to withdraw from tournaments because of back, shoulder and knee injuries.

Huston has played in only four tournaments this year because of neck problems and hasn't made a cut. He is in the field this week at the Transitions Championship, a tournament he won in 2000, the first time it was a full-field PGA event.

"The last month or so my neck has been messed up,'' said Huston, who has seven career wins. "I'm taking some injections so it's feeling better, but I haven't played very much so that's not good.''

Huston went to qualifying school after the 2008 season and earned his way back on tour. But last year was cut short due to injuries. He played in only 13 tournaments.

He is playing this year on a major medical exemption and has 11 tournaments to earn $527,207 and retain his status for the season. Huston has seven tournaments left to earn the money and stay on full time.

And just because he's 48 doesn't mean he thinks he can't compete this week. Huston lives at Innisbrook and knows the Copperhead course inside and out.

"For me, it's all about how I get started,'' Huston said. "If I can get off to a good start, then you never know.''

Golf, then football for Holtz: Things get serious today for USF football coach Skip Holtz when the Bulls open spring practice, but Monday was a day to golf and have fun. Holtz played in the Shelton Quarles Celebrity Pro-Am with pro Josh Teater.

Holtz said he hasn't had much opportunity to play since becoming the Bulls coach.

"Without exaggeration, this is the first time I've touched the clubs since June,'' Holtz said. "Once you get into the season, you stick them away and you just don't have a chance. But I love the game.''

Holtz says he has been as low as a 2 handicap, but now he is a 10. After his Monday round, the clubs will go in the closet until spring practice is over.

Lincicome gets loose: Seminole's Brittany Lincicome has had three weeks off between LPGA Tour tournaments, so she had time to play in Monday's pro-am with pro Ricky Barnes. She will leave next week to play in the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., then it's off to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major. She is the defending champion.

Celebrity Pro-Am: The team of Brett Wetterich, Rays pitcher James Shields and amateurs Nomie Shock, Rod Patterson and Doug Bertz won the celebrity pro-am with a team score of 59. Shields won the closest-to-the-pin contest on the par-3 fourth hole. "I try to get out once a week during spring training,'' Shields said. "I try to get a couple rounds in before the season starts.'' Wetterich replaced John Daly, who was playing the final round at the Puerto Rico Open.

Heintz earns spot: Local pro Bob Heintz was among the four qualifiers for the final spots in the field at Fox Hollow Golf Club.

Heintz and Ty Harris birdied the first hole after shooting 70s to win a six-man playoff for the last two spots. Ryan Armour and Ben Bates had already reached the field by shooting 68s.

Today: Pros continue to roll in, particularly since the Puerto Rico Open was forced to play its final round Monday because of rain earlier in the tournament. There will be practice rounds throughout today.

fast facts

Transitions Championship

What: A 72-hole PGA Tour event

When/where: Thursday-Sunday; Innisbrook Resort and Golf Course, Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor

Par/yards: 71/7,340

Purse: $5,400,000 (winner's share $972,000)

FedEx Cup points: 500

Defending champion: Retief Goosen

Schedule: Today – practice rounds ($10 admission at the gate); Wednesday – Transitions Championship pro-am, Copperhead Course ($10 admission at the gate); Thursday – first round (morning and afternoon tee times); Friday – second round (morning and afternoon tee times); Saturday – third round; Sunday – final round

Tickets: Weekly badge – $79; daily tickets – $30 in advance, $50 at gate; kids 17 and younger free. Call (727) 942-5566, go to transitionschampionship.com or e-mail office@thecopperheads.com. Tickets also are available at Publix supermarkets. Copperhead Pak (two one-day tickets, one daily parking pass, two rounds of golf on the Copperhead, $199). Patron Pak (two weekly badges, one parking pass, $179)

Parking: At St. Petersburg College and along Belcher and Klosterman Roads

TV: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m., Golf Channel; Saturday-Sunday, 3, Ch. 8

Despite aches, pains Huston stays positive for Transitions Championship 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 11:54pm]

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