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A chance to play the best

Black Diamond Ranch north of Lecanto gets to play host to the prestigious tournament, in which 120 golfers will compete. Black Diamond's designation as the site had a significant impact on qualifying efforts. "There were 11 qualifying sites this year and the 760 entrants we had was a record number," Florida State Golf Association office manager Kathy Naple said. "Our biggest previous turnout was 610.

"This tournament is one that men want to play in badly, especially this year since it's being held at Black Diamond. Those that qualified are excited in that they're going to have the opportunity to play the course that nearly everybody's talking about."

Black Diamond is featured in Florida Golf, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Florida State Golf Association. The issue now out contains a feature story on the course with two color photos inside. There is also a cover shot of the 15th green, with its landmark boulder that couldn't be moved. Designer Tom Fazio fashioned the green beside the boulder.

Players teeing off Thursday will face a 6,850-yard, par-72 test over a course containing five back-nine holes that took five months to build over a rock quarry. (The other 13 holes took three months to put in). The 72-hole tournament runs through Sunday with the field cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's second round.

"(The FSGA) wanted to have it here and it was something we had to get approved by our membership," Black Diamond head pro David Shimko said. "We've had the Florida State Senior Amateur and Florida Mid-State Amateur here in the past and the association likes to have better courses on which to hold such events. Black Diamond is ready to hold a major championship at any time."

Lakeland's Robbie Davis is the defending state champion and a pre-tournament favorite. One of his toughest challengers probably will be West Palm Beach's Tom Knapp, who lost in his hometown to Davis in a playoff last year at Bear Lakes Country Club.

Orlando's Gary Schroeder also is expected to contend for top honors. He's a three-time winner of the Henry N. Camp tournament in Ocala, and won the Presidential Invitational at Crystal River the first weekend in April.

Crystal River's Bob Bleakley and Spring Hill's Dan Latoria Jr. are the lone representatives from the North Suncoast in the field. But Ocala has three players entered in Steve Albright Jr., Brent Dorman, and Bo Williams.

Black Diamond is a private club, but Shimko said spectators will be admitted this week to watch the tournament.

Olds Scramble: A quartet from Lakeland finished first among 12 teams Saturday in a local Oldsmobile Scramble qualifier at Inverness Golf and Country Club.

Hank Parker, Charles Summerall, Carl Tyson and Don Knoth turned in a net score of 57 and earned a trip July 30 to Bay Tree in Winter Haven for sectional qualifying. Inverness pro Dale Jones will join the group for the next level of play.

A Citrus County team composed of Sonny Hunt, Doyle McBride, Kevin Fitzpatrick and Jim Thomas placed second with 58 Saturday.

Two teams from Brooksville tied for third with 59. John Mascotti, William Reynolds, Jerry Daun Sr., and Michael Griffin won a match of cards with Phil Suggs, Art Donarski, Bruce Johnson and Ken Haggert.

Another Olds Scramble qualifier is planned Sunday at Saddlebrook. It starts at 9 a.m.

Cooke ninth in match play: Sugarmill Woods head pro Stan Cooke recently finished ninth among 32 golfers in the juniors division at the North Florida PGA Match Play Championship conducted May 29-31 at Plantation Country Club in Venice.

Cooke defeated Joe Gutterman of Palm Coast on the 22nd hole in their first-round match. Both golfers went par-par-par on the first three extra holes before Cooke knocked home a birdie putt on hole No.13 (the fourth overtime hole) to win.

In the second round, Steve Waugh of Amelia Island defeated Cooke on the 19th hole of play. Waugh birdied the hole, while Cooke parred it.

Cooke won three additional consolation matches to finish at the top of the third bracket. He beat Sarasota's Mike Toale 1-up, Daytona Beach's Chuck Kandt (defending champion) 3-and-2, and St. Augustine's Jim Lawrence 3-and-2.

"The (Bobcat) course was terrific," Cooke said. "A lot of the other pros were complaining that the greens were bad, but I thought they were fine. They said the greens were too grainy and slow, but they're used to playing on tift dwarf grass and we were on Bermuda, which I'm used to.

"The tournament itself is absolutely great. It's the one tournament throughout the year where I get to know the other pros other than their first names. They don't have on a game face and talk and communicate with you. It's a friendly tournament even though you're playing your heart out."

A date in Naples: Gulf Harbors head pro Kristi Lambert will travel to Naples in late August to keep a date, but it's not one with a fellow. She will attend Business School II from August 25-30.

Lambert will receive instruction in such areas as tournament management, club fitting, cart management and the in-depth rules of golf during the week-long school.

Successful completion of Business School II will put Lambert a step closer to attaining PGA Class A certification.

Tight race in men's league: The logjam at the top of the Men's Suncoast Travel League should be broken when teams play their fifth match at Connell Lake today beginning at 9 a.m.

Sugarmill Woods has 8{ points, but Pine Ridge and Citrus Hills are less than a whisker off the pace with 8 points apiece. Glen Lakes has 6 points and will try to climb out of fourth place, while Inverness has 4{ points and also is looking to move up. Rounding out the field are Connell Lake with 3 points, followed by Plantation and Rainbow Springs with one point each.

A match scheduled June 3 at Inverness was rained out. It's rescheduled for July 15 at 8:30 a.m.