Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has fun at Encompass Insurance Pro-Am

LUTZ — Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, two weeks removed from a Final Four appearance, played in his first Encompass Insurance Pro-Am on Friday. But he is no stranger to the Tampa Bay area.

Pitino is a member at Old Memorial Golf Club in North Tampa and says he plays there about five times per year. Overall, he said he gets to play about 15-20 times per year.

"It was great," Pitino said of his round Friday. "I hit it much better than I normally do."

This week, he is paired with Western Kentucky graduate and die-hard Kentucky fan Kenny Perry. Perry said the two got along just fine.

"I'm very impressed with his game," Perry said. "He's a good player. He can putt."

The Perry-Pitino team shot 4-under 67. Individually, Perry shot 1-over 72.

"I was hacking," Perry said. "For about three holes there, I couldn't even find the planet."

Pitino, who was sporting a Louisville golf shirt, said despite the loss to Kentucky in the national semifinals, it was one of the more enjoyable Final Fours he has coached.

"I told myself that I'm not going to be coaching much longer, so if I ever get the chance again, I'm going to enjoy it," Pitino, 59, said. "The other five (Final Fours), I didn't enjoy them as much.

"This time, I said I was going to stay focused, but I was going to enjoy it."

His first Final Four appearance was 25 years ago with Providence. Pitino said he has planned a reunion for that team in May. He even took a shot at current Florida coach Billy Donovan, who was a guard on that Providence team.

"I rented a boat. We're going to have 11 of our 13 guys coming," Pitino said.

"Then Billy Donovan said to me, 'Coach, you never let me pay for anything. You have to let me pay for something.' I told him, 'You've never dug into your pocket yet. Why should you make an exception now?' "

Shot of the day: Brad Bryant got to 5 under at the par-3 17th when he hit his tee shot, with a 5-iron, 10 inches from the hole.

He briefly held the lead with help from that shot but bogeyed No. 18 and sat two back after the round.

Maltbie returns: NBC golf analyst Roger Maltbie had not played a competitive round in six years. The last time he played in a regular stroke play event was Pebble Beach in 2006.

But he decided to play this week to get ready for next week's Legends Division tournament in Savannah, Ga., where he is paired with NBC golf reporter and Tampa native Gary Koch.

"I had fun even shooting an 83," Maltbie, 61, said. "I love to play golf, and I'll always love to play golf. There were goods and bads. From holes 15-18, I played them 8-over par. That's my whole day right there.

"I have to expect that. I don't play much golf. And I just lost 50 pounds, so I'm kind of uncoordinated right now."

withdrawals: Nick Price complained on Thursday about a nagging pain in his left elbow. The 2009 tournament champion tried to play through it Friday but withdrew after eight holes.

His amateur, Michael Lund, will use Bernhard Langer as a partner for the rest of the tournament.

Tommy Armour lasted only one hole before calling it a day. He made a bogey 5 on the 10th and withdrew with a shoulder injury.

His playing partner, Todd Wagner, will be teamed with Mark Brooks.

Because Price and Armour started the tournament, there will be no replacement players.

Chip Shots: Former champion Tom Watson, who has been struggling with a right arm injury, shot 6-over 77. … Defending champion John Cook has a long way to go if he's going to repeat. He shot 2-over 73 and was eight shots back. … Today is Tampa Bay Lightning Day. Anyone wearing a Lightning shirt or jersey will get half-off a one-day pass. There also will be interactive Lightning booths. … After play, there will be a free concert by One Night Rodeo.

Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has fun at Encompass Insurance Pro-Am 04/13/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012 10:03pm]

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