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Freshman wants to prove herself

Brittany Lincicome can feel the eyes on her. She knows she's being watched, but that's to be expected when you're one of the top junior golfers in the state and Osceola's No. 1 golfer as a freshman.

Without flinching, Lincicome takes a few practice swings and then laces a drive 250 yards down the center of the fairway. Blue tees be damned, Lincicome is out to prove she's one of the best golfers in the county, boy or girl.

"I like teeing up on the first tee and having everyone watch me," Lincicome said. "Then I drive it down the middle. That's really fun."

For those familiar with the junior golf circuit, Lincicome is not a newcomer. She has been winning state tournaments for the past few years.

The story of how she became one of the best junior golfers will frustrate every hacker who has ever picked up a club.

Lincicome started her athletic career as a baseball player. She played Little League with boys teams and was very competitive.

It wasn't until she was 9 that she picked up a club. Her father and two older brothers occasionally would play East Bay's lighted par-3 course at night. They invited Brittany, and from the very beginning, she could make solid contact.

"Everybody else in my family was playing golf, so one night, they took me with them," Lincicome said. "I did pretty well. I liked playing baseball, too. I was pretty good at it. But I had to decide whether to play golf or baseball. The swings are so different."

She chose golf, and from there, she improved immensely. She started working with Bardmoor teaching pro Tom West. She became a regular on the Florida junior circuit. And she started winning.

This summer, she won the Optimist International and Tampa Bay Classic. And against a field of international players Sunday, Lincicome won the Naples Florida tournament. As a member of the Pinellas County Junior Golf Association, she was so good that she was moved from the 15-18 girls division to the 15-18 boys division.

As for high school, Lincicome already is Osceola's best player. She'll play No. 1 for it and then play in the girls district, regional and state tournaments. She'll turn 15 in eight days, but Lincicome already is good enough to think about a state title.

She also is home-schooled and, as a Largo resident, is zoned for Osceola.

"She's a tremendous player," Osceola coach Mark Saari said. "I think in her first match against the boys (when she shot 43 against St. Petersburg Catholic), she may have been a little nervous, maybe trying too hard. But she's going to do very well. She hits the ball a long ways, and she can putt."

Lincicome said the biggest adjustment from junior golf to high school is playing from the blue tees, which are farther back than the women's red tees that are used for girls tournaments.

"Instead of having a wedge into the par 4s, I've got a 5-iron," she said. "But I think it will help me become a better long iron player. The thing I've got to work on most is my short irons. I'm not hitting those as close as I need to be."

Lincicome's goals reach much further than high school as she plans on competing in many junior tournaments year-round.

And she hopes to play on the LPGA Tour.

"I think about that all the time," Lincicome said. "I always tell myself, practice harder, practice harder."

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