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Winning is fine, but 9-year-old just loves golf

James McCarragher has a simple reason for loving golf so much: He wins a lot.

But he said he'd enjoy it even if he hadn't won seven tournaments this summer. After all, his mom brings him water and chocolate bars on the course.

"I'd like it even if I didn't win," said McCarragher, who is 9 years old. "I hope I play it forever."

McCarragher finished a breakthrough season at the North Suncoast Junior Golf Association Tournament of Champions this weekend, shooting a two-day 35-33_68 to win the Boys and Girls 8-9 Division on the short course at World Woods.

McCarragher joined Spring Hill's Julian Spinoza (Boys Intermediate 10-12) and Brooksville's Kathryn Benson (Girls Intermediate 13-18) and Ryan Brewer (Boys Advanced 12) as Hernando County winners.

McCarragher, who also competed in the division last summer, beat Ocala's Frank Turner by six strokes and Inverness' Alex Stanley by eight.

But even an old duffer like McCarragher experienced some nerves in the final event of the NSJGA slate.

"Yeah, I was nervous," he said. "My putting was a little shaky, but my mom was there."

McCarragher's mother, Susan, and father, Gary, have been there since he began playing two years ago. Raising a gifted golfer has already challenged them to be supportive nurturers without becoming stage parents.

"We want to keep it fun," said Susan McCarragher. "If he said he hated it, I would be the first to tell him it was fine. But he just keeps going. As long as he wants to play, that's good."

His father, who also plays, predicts his son will surpass him by age 15. James thinks it might be earlier.

His highlight as a golfer so far?

"I was in the paper about a year ago," he said. "That was pretty cool."

Among the other county winners, Benson, 13, won for the fifth straight week, beating Christina Mitchell of Inverness by 13 strokes with a 38-37_75.

Spinoza shot a 43-45_88 to win his title by five shots over Kenneth Gaal of Homosassa, and Brewer fired an 80-79_159 on the Rolling Oaks course to win by 20 strokes over Matt Pepito of Crystal River.

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS: Rivard Golf and Country Club co-owner Michael Duxstad declared Saturday's Hooters Inaugural Charity Golf Classic a major success as more than 80 golfers plied his course.

"A giant success a fantastic afternoon," he said. "The community outpouring was amazing and the support really helped out.

"We had 80 or so golfers, but it was more like 120 to 130 people with all the music and events we had going on around here."

Hope Clancy, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hernando County event coordinator, said $7,000 was raised. She said $5,300 of that money will go to the organization.

HEATHER LADIES: Dot Kaminski used 14 putts to win the low-putts competition in the first flight Tuesday in the Heather Ladies Golf League. Verna Briggs, Elsie King and Marilyn Bunzel tied for second with 15 putts.

Muriel DuBois won the second flight with a 15, followed by Barbara Radike and Barbara Dohm (16).

Kathy MacArthur and Grace Hernandez won the third flight with 16 putts, and Bea Giampino, Ednamae Formisano, Dot Strumfeld and Carole Taylor each had 18.

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