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Color the Gators team Green

Darin Green made the Land O'Lakes High golf team as a freshman. Now the senior is the veteran on a team that includes three freshmen.

Green's consistency, coupled with the surprisingly steady play of freshmen John Benson, Erik Cobb and Chris Mann, helped Land O'Lakes equal last year's win total before this season's midpoint. The Gators, 3-10 last year, already have won three matches. They played River Ridge Thursday, but results were unavailable.

"He's probably the best in the area," Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said of Green, last year's Sunshine Athletic Conference player of the year, "but the good surprise is I've got three freshmen who are really contributing."

Benson (45.7 average), Cobb (46.2) and Mann (47.7) may not be on a par with Green (38.5), but they have been good enough to supplant returners Morgan County, a junior, and Jeff Hagman, a senior.

"They hit the ball pretty well and they manage the course pretty well," Puhalski said of the trio. "They've just been playing a lot."

Cobb and Mann get a little extra practice time in at their part-time jobs. Both work at Different Strokes Golf Center, a driving range in Northdale.

While Puhalski realizes the Gators are a better team, he would not go so far as to say they are ready to challenge for the conference or Class 5A, District 7 titles. He predicts Land O'Lakes will finish in the top five at the conference meet and in the top 10 at districts.

"We'll be improved, but we're just too young," Puhalski said. "You need two Darins to go far in districts."

One Darin, however, may be enough for a milestone this year. Green's older brother Andy set the school record for a round of 34, 2 under par, in 1991. Three years later, Darin tied that mark as a sophomore. As for 18 holes, the younger Green's best round is a 76, which came during last year's district tournament at Countryside Country Club in Clearwater.

Puhalski feels the younger Green will break his older brother's record _ if not in the regular season, then in the distict or conference matches.

Land O'Lakes' only loss so far came against Hudson 159-165. The Gators, who play out of Pebble Creek in North Tampa, defeated Pasco (176-201), Gulf (179-183) and Springstead (180-201).

LPGA TOURNEY: The Timber Oaks Golf Club in Port Richey is the site of an LPGA qualifier for the Susan G. Komen International Tournament. The qualifier is April 6 and costs $100. Entry is limited to the first 40 golfers. For further information, call 856-5585.