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West Florida may still fill LPGA event gap

The embarrassing three-week gap in the LPGA schedule in April, sarcastically called spring break by LPGA players, will not be filled in 1990. The break was caused by tournament cancellations, including the St. Petersburg tournament, last known as the USX Classic. But a tournament should return to somewhere in or near the Tampa Bay area. The somewhere is the big question mark. Golf World magazine reported that LPGA commissioner William Blue told a press gathering at the Oldsmobile Classic in Lake Worth that he wants six LPGA stops in Florida, not including the PGA-LPGA JCPenney Classic at Innisbrook.

There are currently three _ Lake Worth, Lauderhill and Tallahassee _ and Blue hopes to add tournaments in golf-rich Orlando, Daytona Beach, site of the new LPGA headquarters, and somewhere in west Florida.

The Polywogs, the volunteer group that has organized the St. Petersburg stop, has not heard from Blue since a new sponsor could not be found, according to Polywog president Jim Strickland. The group is still planning a pro-am tournament in May that will benefit local charities.

According to Strickland, the level of success of the pro-am tournament will determine the Polywogs' next step, whether it be organizing more pro-am tournaments or chasing another LPGA tournament.

While an LPGA tournament is on hold, the Polywogs are still producing the coupon books associated with the tournament. The 1990 Orange Blossom Classic Golf Coupon Books are available. There are coupons for free greens fees (golf cart rental required) at 50 Tampa Bay courses. The cost is $40. The books are available at some charities, including Abilities of Florida (530-0617) and the Girls Clubs of Pinellas County (461-1653).

Pro update: After missing a few tournaments because of a twisted ankle, John Huston of Palm Harbor returned to the PGA Tour last week, cashing in at the Shearson Lehman Hutton Open in California. Despite a third-round 83, Huston, who represents the Innisbrook Resort, shot a 5-over-par 293, collecting $1,620.

Innisbrook Vice President of Golf Jay Overton will not be playing many pro tournaments this year. Overton, who represents the Ben Hogan Co., will play some Ben Hogan Tour tournaments. He'll also try to qualify for the U.S. Open and is already qualified for the PGA Championship.

Overton, Huston, Greg Norman and Bill Buttner of St. Petersburg will be at Innisbrook on May 7 for a charity skins game. Tickets are $100, which includes a greens fee and cart at Innisbrook. Call the JCPenney Classic office at Innisbrook 942-2000 for more information.

JCPenney update: When the PGA Tour board meets next week, among the topics will be a request from the JCPenney Classic to expand from 50 to 52 teams.

Already, tournament director Tom Jewell has 15 teams signed up.

Two teams were already announced _ Heather Farr and Mark Brooks, and Cindy Rarick and Robert Gamez _ along with defending champions Pat Bradley and Bill Glasson.

The other 12 teams are Amy Benz and John Huston, Betsy King and Doug Tewell, Colleen Walker and Curt Byrum, Sherri Turner and Ken Perry, Lori Garbacz and Tommy Armour III, Dottie Mochrie and Dan Forsman, Beth Daniel and Davis Love III, Jane Crafter and Steve Jones, Lauri Merten and Joey Sindelar, Jane Geddes and Jeff Sluman, Susan Sanders and Tom Byrum, and Danielle Ammaccapane and Jim Carter.

College update: Former Pinellas Park High and current University of Florida golfer Michele Vinieratos placed third in the Lady Gator Invitational Sunday in Gainesville. Vinieratos, who receives instruction from Feather Sound pro Brett Upper, shot a three-round 232, recording the second-best Florida score and helping the Gators capture the team title.

Prep update: The Pinellas County Conference high school golf season begins next week. Northeast and Largo will play next Monday at Belleair Country Club. Most of the teams start the conference schedule March 1.

In the Clearwater Invitational Scramble last week at Clearwater Country Club, Tarpon Springs' Brent Morgan and Pat Olive defended their title with a 31.

Hole-in-one hotline: Lou Fox has been playing golf only two years but she aced the 78-yard No. 14 hole at the Tides Country Club.

Coming up: The Ray Perkins Celebrity Golf Classic has been changed to March 9-10, and the tournament will now be played on only one course, River Hills in Brandon. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. For more information, call 1-875-5771.