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Kirk Triplett makes Champions Tour debut today in Encompass Insurance Pro-Am

HOME FOR NOW: Palm Harbor resident John Huston, preparing for a putt in Thursday’s pro-am, today begins play in his first Champions Tour event in the Tampa Bay area.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

HOME FOR NOW: Palm Harbor resident John Huston, preparing for a putt in Thursday’s pro-am, today begins play in his first Champions Tour event in the Tampa Bay area.

LUTZ — Kirk Triplett makes his Champions Tour debut today. Triplett won three times in his PGA Tour career, the last time in 2006. He spent the past few years playing in select PGA and Nationwide Tour tournaments to stay sharp.

"I come to every tournament to try and win it," Triplett said Thursday.

One of the main differences between the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour is the competition, Triplett said. The senior tour is filled with players from his past.

"My wife texted me, and I said, 'This is really weird,' " Triplett said. "It's like being in a time machine."

Triplett said he hopes to have more success than he did on the main tour.

"I had a few wins … but it's not like I was a world beater or anything," Triplett said. "I was just a nice, consistent player. I'm looking to build on that and hopefully break through some barriers that I couldn't break through on the regular tour.

"But these guys were beating me 20 years ago, so I'll have to do something different or it's going to turn out the same way."

Huston makes local debut: Palm Harbor resident John Huston not only plays in his first Champions Tour event at TPC Tampa Bay today, he'll do it with a new long putter. After months of not putting well, Huston decided this week was the time to change.

"I had to do something," Huston said. "It's no fun if you aren't putting well."

Huston, who joined the tour in June 2011, is not off to the best of starts this season. His best finish is a tie for eighth at the Toshiba Classic in mid March. He has one tour win, the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in 2011. It was his third tour event.

He pins the poor play on putting. Hence, the equipment change.

"I've putted pretty good so far, but I haven't done it in a tournament yet," Huston said. "It's better, but I have to see if I can do it when I really want to."

Price plays through pain: Nick Price, who won at TPC Tampa Bay in 2009, has had tennis elbow for most of this season. He has only one top 10 finish and is playing through pain.

"Thank God for (pain relievers) or I'd be benched right now," Price said. "I seem to slip into these bad habits.

"When I start taking deep divots, you might not want to go anywhere near the bookie. But when I start taking nice, shallow divots, that's when I start playing well."

Bryant Gives Back: Brad Bryant and his wife, Sue, have started a program called the Uniting Hearts Fund to provide money for couples wishing to adopt orphaned children.

Bryant, who has an adopted child, said he will donate 10 percent of his winnings this season to the fund. So far, that total is $18,000.

"I'm going to be able to play golf for other people," Bryant said. "I'm really looking forward to that."

Bluegrass pairing: The most interesting pairing for the tournament is Kenny Perry and Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Perry is a die-hard Kentucky fan.

Kirk Triplett makes Champions Tour debut today in Encompass Insurance Pro-Am 04/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 11:31pm]
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