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Golf cart auction brings out the green

There wasn't a fairway in sight, but the golf carts were lined up by the hundreds. "This is the largest golf cart auction that has ever been held that we know of," said Bernie Dworkin, executive vice president and chief auctioneer for Phillip Pollack and Co.

The company was selling 600 of the used carts Thursday morning. About 400 of the carts were lined up beside U.S. 19. The other 200, in Brunswick, Ga., were available for viewing via slides, auctioneers said.

An auctioneer stood on one of the carts as it rolled between the rows of carts.

"Come on, right down here, ladies and gentlemen. This is where the fish are biting," he said, trying to reel in the customers.

About a hundred people followed in the warm sun, arms folded to keep from bidding inadvertently as the fast-talking auctioneer plied his trade. They kicked tires and lifted the seats to get a look at the batteries that power the carts.

Although some of the spectators came from as far away as Washington state and Canada to bid on the used carts, most came from the Tampa Bay area. That is why the auction was scheduled in Clearwater, Dworkin said. The area is a particularly good golf cart market.

And, while many of the carts had spent their early years rolling on the lush greens of golf courses across the Southeast, many were destined to spend their remaining years on one-lane asphalt roads in mobile home parks.

While the eager bid high, Charles Treat stood back, arms folded, smiling.

The former auto dealer from Connecticut knew a secret. The best deals at an auction are often to be found near the end.

Treat and two friends were looking for carts for Bay's End Manor mobile home park in Safety Harbor. He also was waiting for the auctioneer to get to the gasoline-powered carts. It takes several car-sized batteries to operate the electric vehicles, so Treat figured operating the gas-powered carts would be cheaper, even with the rising cost of gasoline. Replacing the batteries can cost $300 to $400.

Bill and Jeanne Lampman bought a cart for $700 and then promptly sat down in it _ claiming ownership. They plan to use the cart to get around their neighborhood, the Four Seasons mobile home park in Largo.

"It's going to be our new toy," Mrs. Lampman said.