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Last amateur effort successful

He put off his decision to turn pro and entered one last amateur tournament. Because of his procrastination, and a great putting stroke, Thad Coontz is the new champion of the Skip Alexander St. Petersburg City Amateur Championship.

Coontz, a graduate of Eckerd College in June, figured he'd be playing pro golf by now. But he put off playing on the Florida mini-tour (a series of professional tournaments) until next week. He entered the city amateur on a whim.

"I was pretty fortunate," said Coontz.

Coontz was also devastating on the green. After an opening-round 73 on Friday, Coontz shot a 7-under-par 65 Saturday, with an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys. His shortest birdie putt was from 15 feet, and he finished his round on the par-5 sixth hole (he began on No.7), with a 50-foot eagle putt.

"My putter was really hot. I really didn't hit the ball much better (on Saturday)," Coontz said.

With his 138 score, Coontz won by four strokes over defending champion Dave Sironen of Seminole.

Jim Thompson of St. Petersburg won the city senior title with a 76-74_150. Thompson is the club champion at Lakewood.

In the guest division (those living north of Ulmerton Road), Marshall Ames won for a second straight time, shooting the tournament's best score (66-69_135). Archie Leib (156) was the senior guest winner.

U.S. Senior Amateur: Both Jack Veghte of Clearwater and Bob Rankin of Tarpon Springs made it to the match-play portion of the U.S. Senior Amateur last week in Carefree, Ariz., Rankin shooting a 78-77_155 (tying for seventh in the medal rounds) and Veghte shooting a 79-80_159.

Both won their first round of match play. Rankin was eliminated in the second round, 1-up by Ken Whitehead of West Des Moines, Iowa. Veghte won two matches before being stopped by Bobby Clark of Asheville, N.C., 3-and-2.

Clark reached the final, losing to Jackie Cummings of Tuscaloosa, Ala., 3-and-2.

PGA Tour: At the Walt Disney World Classic last week, Bill Buttner of St. Petersburg needed to make money to move up the PGA Tour money list and become exempt for next season. But before he could face that pressure, Buttner had to deal with the death of his mother on Tuesday.

Buttner shot 66 on Wednesday, but followed with 75 and 71. He missed the cut by two strokes, and ended up 134th on the money list, six places from an exemption.

Also at Disney was John Huston of Palm Harbor. He won only $2,010, but remained No.30 on the Tour money list, qualifying him for this week's $2.5-million Nabisco Championship in Houston. The top 30 on the list qualify.

Men's interclub: Countryside won its second straight Pinellas County Men's Interclub Golf Association outing Thursday at the Innisbrook Resort Island Course, led by pro Brad Snider (71). Low pro was Matt Cote of Tarpon Woods. Low amateur team was Jerry Dutka and Lorne Dutka of Pasadena.

LPGA stars shooting for Orlando: The LPGA announced the U.S. team that will challenge the European team in the first-ever Solheim Cup matches, Nov.16-18 in Orlando. The matches, similar to the men's Ryder Cup matches, will be played every two years.

The 1990 match is at the Lake Nona Golf Club. The eight U.S. players are Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, Pat Bradley, Cathy Gerring, Rosie Jones, Dottie Mochrie and Nancy Lopez. The European team features Laura Davies, Liselotte Neumann, Trich Johnson, Alison Nicholas, Helen Alfredson, Dale Reid, Pamela Wright and Marie-Laure de Lorenzi.

Tickets for the three-day event are $25, purchased through the LPGA (904-254-8800) or from Lake Nona.

Among the best: Golden Ocala, in Ocala, was named one of the 75 best public courses in the November issue of Golf Digest. Two other area courses made the list, Eastwood in Fort Myers and Hunter's Creek in Orlando.

Coming up

The 19th annual Belleair Country Club Charity Golf Tournament is Oct.26-28, benefiting the Cancer Hotline at Morton Plant Hospital. The women's tournament is the 26th, the men's event the Oct.27-28. Call Bob Driver at Morton Plant (462-7093).

The USF-St. Petersburg benefit golf tournament is Oct.26, 1 p.m., at Bardmoor. Fee is $50. Call Deborah Kurelik (893-9160).

The 13th annual Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce tournament is Oct. 27 at East Lake Woodlands Country Club. Call 937-6109.

The Kiwanis Club of Belleair Bluffs is holding a charity event Nov. 3, 1:30 p.m., at Pinecrest Country Club. Entry costs $25. Call 585-0055.

A four-person scramble golf tournament benefiting the YMCA is Nov. 4, 1 p.m., at Clearwater Country Club. Entry fee is $60 and includes dinner. Call Doug Curry (461-9622).

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