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Invitational field almost full

Some of the faces have changed, but the game remains the same in the New Port Lincoln Mercury Invitational at Seven Springs Golf and Country Club in New Port Richey.

Steve Purviance, who was promoted from assistant pro status to head pro two months ago, will get his first crack at running the prestigious event beginning Friday.

A near-capacity field of about 130 is expected. Tee times are scheduled for the opening two rounds Friday and Saturday, but the final round will begin with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Sunday.

"This is the first time I've been involved with the tournament as a head pro, but I've been here for six years so I'm familiar with the tournament," said Purviance, who succeeded Jack Johnson, the new director of golf at Seven Springs. "There won't be any major changes, but there may be a little difference in the logistics concerning check-in and scoring."

David Knighton of Homosassa shot a three-day total of 2-over-par 218 en route to the championship-flight title last year. But Knighton since has turned pro and will not be able to defend.

"The only reason I know David turned pro is because I saw his name on a list for a Florida Open qualifier that involves only professionals," Purviance explained.

Despite a solid performance, Knighton's 2-over effort was still nine strokes off the tournament scoring record set by Johnny Adcock of Brandon two years ago. Adcock also has relinquished his amateur status and will not be on hand.

Without Knighton and Adcock, Wayne Rudzewicz of Tampa, last year's second-place finisher, will be a greater threat.

Another threat will be River Ridge High golf coach Ron Spriggs, a 5-handicapper who will make his return to the tournament after a one-year absence.

"You can never count Ron out," Purviance said. "He hits it straight and when he plays, he's usually in contention."

Other notable entrants are Mike Cloer, a former Florida Southern College player from Zephyrhills, reigning St. Petersburg Amateur champion Tim Cyr, and Buddy Gibbs of Bloomingdale.

Overall, 25 golfers with handicaps of 6 or less are entered. And they will be tested by at least six tough pin placements each day.

"The (United States Golf Association) recommends six hard, six medium and six easy. We'll try to follow that guideline," Purviance said. "We don't trick it up, but we have a couple holes here that we can make real interesting. We'll save those for the last day _ just to make it fun."

A total prize purse of $8,500 will be divided among at least seven flights. An eighth flight will be added if there is a late rush of entries.

The deadline was Monday night at 6 p.m., but if the field, which is limited to 144, was not filled, entries will be accepted as late as Thursday.

As of Monday afternoon, 105 golfers had signed up with at least 20 more giving verbal commitments.

A total of 136 players were entered last year. The 1991 tournament had the largest field with 185.

As for the weather, the morning tee times should give the tournament a good chance of sidestepping the traditional afternoon showers.

"They're predicting the possibility of rain on Friday," Purviance said, "so we'll keep our fingers crossed on that one."

Seven Springs juniors: Also at Seven Springs, the junior program starts July 6 and will run through July 30.

The cost is $60 per player and the sessions are open to all area youths ages 8-18.

Sessions will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The 8-11 group will run from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and the 12-18 group will meet from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Seniors at Saddlebrook: Saddlebrook Golf and Tennis Resort in Wesley Chapel is preparing for about 80 players from the Sunshine State Golf Association Thursday and Friday.

The SSGA is a group composed of senior players who travel from resort to resort throughout the state, holding tournaments wherever they go.

"It must be nice," Saddlebrook director of golf Neil Postlethwait said of the group.

Saddlebrook also will be busy with other convention-type events through the end of the month, but play will drop off dramatically in July and August.

"We're looking for a slow summer," Postlethwait said. "But we have conventions through June and that's a little unusual."

Local golf schedule

Today-Friday: Junior golf camp at Quail Ridge near Spring Hill.

Today-July 23: Free City of Zephyrhills junior golf program at Zephyrhills Golf Course.

Thursday-Friday: Sunshine State Golf Association at Saddlebrook in Wesley Chapel.

Friday-Sunday: New Port Lincoln Mercury Men's Amateur Invitational at Seven Springs Golf and Country Club in New Port Richey.

Saturday: Suncoast Junior Golf Association at Quail Ridge.

Sunday: Florida Suns Baseball Club scramble at Quail Ridge.

Three-man Super Scramble at Sundance in Zephyrhills.

Tampa Tribune tournament at Silver Oaks in Zephyrhills.

July 3-4: Sidewalk sale at Zephyrhills Golf Course.

July 6-30: Junior golf program at Seven Springs in New Port Richey.

July 10: Member-Guest at Zephyrhills Golf Course.

July 31: West Pasco Republicans benefit at Quail Ridge.