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Group's annual turf war weeds out top landscaper

Dave Nelson of New Port Richey mowed, trimmed and cleared his way to fame as he edged out 47 contestants in a grueling lawn-mowing competition Sunday morning in Vinoy Park. It was the second annual competition sponsored by the American Landscape Maintenance Association and Nelson, 18, did the 50-yard obstacle course in 2 minutes 5 seconds.

"I feel good and I just wanted to have fun," said Nelson, a high school senior and owner of Eternal Lawn Care in New Port Richey.

"But I'm tired."

Each contestant ran the course four times _ with a weedeater, a mower, an edger and a backpack blower _ and zigzagged around cones, a lattice-work fence and two mulch piles. Each time down was worth one point, and anyone who skipped an obstacle or knocked over a cone lost that point and virtually guaranteed he could not win.

The competition was friendly but intense.

"I knocked over a cone and I'm kind of disappointed," said Scott Alessi, 25, of Alessi Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping in Holiday. "Last year I was fifth out of 50 but I went toward the end so I could see what the other guys did and plan my strategy. This year I wasn't used to some of the new equipment."