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Black Diamond crafted for event

Tournament officials tried to take all skill levels into account in setting up the golf course at Black Diamond Ranch for Thursday's opening round of the Florida Men's State Amateur Championship. "We know players in the first round tend to have a case of nerves," Black Diamond head pro David Shimko said. "We set the course up easier (Thursday), but we'll probably have tougher pin placements (Friday) and get progressively tougher throughout the week.

"The course is playing 250-300 yards shorter than normal from the black tees. The age of the field is 14 to 60, and we tried not to set it up to favor anybody."

Black Diamond normally plays 7,159 yards from the back (black) tees. But 7 of 16 black-tee holes were shortened, as were two par-3 holes played from the dark gray tees, meaning that nine of 18 holes were shorter for the tournament.

Lakeland's Guy Hill, playing in his third state amateur, liked the way the course was set up the first day.

"They made it fair," Hill said. "The greens were real speedy, but only a couple of the pin placements were real tough.

"I remember it being a lot longer the previous time I played here, but that day it was real wet. The course is in great condition, and I didn't have a bad lie all day."

Hill finished his round at 2-over-par 74, shooting 37 on both nines. He had eight pars and one bogey on the front side, and three birdies, three pars, two bogeys and a double bogey on the back side.

Crystal River High graduate Steve Pochis was on hand to root for Hill. Pochis also plays for the Miami Hurricanes.

The top score of 67 was turned in by Buddy Alexander, coach of the University of Florida golf team. Crystal River's Bob Bleakley fired a 71.

Black Diamond never had been open to spectators, and people attending the tournament Thursday were pleased with the opportunity to view the Tom Fazio-designed course.

Marion Randall and son Mark Randall traveled up from Brookridge, a mobile home development west of Brooksville. They brought along lawn chairs so they didn't have to be on their feet continuously.

"It's wonderful," Mrs. Randall said. "We were here when they first developed the course (in 1987), and what a change. There weren't any homes here then, as it was just in the building stage.

"My husband saw in the paper where the tournament was going to be open to the public and also read where it was 6{ miles to walk the whole thing, so we brought along chairs. We've been to the 18th, 10th and ninth greens."

Pro shop staffers estimated that more than 200 spectators were in attendance Thursday.