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2 summer "tours' offer lots of golf for area juniors

Pretty soon, Keegan Ledford hits the tour again. His main focus will be playing golf and winning tournaments, sometimes two in a week.

He'll see a lot of familiar faces around the tee box, the same guys he was battling into the final round last time around. Or maybe he saw them in gym class a little while back.

Ledford is only 14, but with two junior golf associations within the county, the Brooksville standout will have plenty of chances to feel what it is like to be a touring collegian or professional.

Both groups _ the PGA-affiliated West Central Chapter Junior Golf Association, and the North Suncoast Junior Golf Association _ attempt to simulate that experience with their summer schedules of a dozen or so events, and the lure has been strong.

The WCCJGA, in its second season and based at GlenLakes, has 80 kids ages 7-17 registered for play this year. The NSJGA, based at World Woods, did not have current figures available, but had 168 last year.

"A lot of people play in the NSJGA and in ours as well," said Shay Smart, head pro at GlenLakes and co-director of the WCCJGA. "It's not a situation where one would play in just one. We're not real competitive. I don't think we're competitive."

Both groups feel their golf experience is the best for area juniors, but neither thinks it competes with the other. The NSJGA draws from the entire Tampa Bay area while its counterpart sees Hernando, Citrus and Marion counties as its base.

The WCCJGA costs $30, the NSJGA $60 and $5 per tournament but plays on high-profile courses such as World Woods, Sugarmill Woods and Black Diamond.

"We look at our pluses as the quality of the individuals who are running it," said Scott Wyckoff, NSJGA director. "And the quality of the courses we have should make it attractive to junior golfers."

World Woods director of golf Stan Cooke, Sugarmill Woods head pro Ric Stocker, and Southern Woods counterpart Rick Kelso offer instruction in the NSJGA, as do Smart and assistants Mike Cirone and Jeff Ludeman in the WCCJGA. Neither group considers instruction its main focus, though Smart said their junior are told they "can basically call us anytime" for individual instruction.

"We have a young and vigorous staff," Smart said. "I think we work well with the kids."

In the end, players just want to play. They see both as vehicles for doing just that.

"There's no difference, really," Ledford said. "Just different people. I guess the NSJGA is a little more local, but they both have some pretty good tournaments."

The fact that super serious players such as Hernando Countians Ledford, Fred Farmer, Tara Allen and Ryan Brewer play in both organizations shows the groups do not so much compete for top talent as they offer a buyers' market for kids trying to pack as much play as possible into a summer.

"I can play about six days a week," Ledford said. "I usually like to take that other day off so I don't get burned out. That, and my mom likes me to spend some time with her."