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Lindner hoping mini tour leads to something bigger

A professional golfer from St. Petersburg is having success on the mini tour and looking to take his game to the next level.

Jay Lindner, from the Meadowlawn section of the city, put it all together at the Sept. 3 tour event at Sherman Hills in Brooksville.

He shot 4-under 68, winning the tournament by two strokes over runners-up Jeff Simpson of Sarasota and Ben Kitts of Summerfield.

Lindner started fast with birdies on 2 and 3 and finished the front 9 with another birdie on the ninth for a 33.

His back-nine birdies came on the 12th, 13th and 15th.

Although a couple of his putts were from the 12-15 range, what stands out in Lindner's mind from that round is saving par on the par-4 14th.

"I hit a 3-wood off the tee into the rough and had to punch out into the fairway with a 2-iron," said Lindner, 40, who works full-time at the Gulf Coast Garden Center in St. Petersburg.

"Then I hit a wedge from 130 yards to within 12 feet to save par," he said.

Lindner said he's trying to improve his game so he can earn some money in the sport.

He's been helped the last year working with Mangrove Bay head pro Kenny Betz and playing on the mini tour managed by the Moonlight Golf Associaton of Seminole.

"When I first went to see Kenny, I was hooking a lot," Lindner said. "We got that straightened to the point where I'm hitting the fairways with 270-280-yard drives.

"So that's the strong part of my game right now. What I need to work on is my short game.

"My putting has been my downfall for years. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I work six days a week supporting my family."

Lindner took up the game at age 13 in Fairfax County, Va., where he took lessons as a righty before switching to the opposite side of the ball.

He was on the Chantilly High School team before moving on to George Mason University, where he played for one season.

One highlight of his career was qualifying for the 1983 Kemper Open, although he missed the 36-hole cut.

Four years ago, he had an unsuccessful try at the PGA Tour Q-School.

That same season, he was in a sectional playoff with Gary Nicklaus for a spot in the U.S. Open. Lindner lost after three-putting from 40 feet.

"I'd like to try the Q-School again when I get my game together, and hopefully, get a sponsor," said Lindner, who has a best round of 8-under 63 shot at International Country Club in Fairfax.

"I'm getting there with Kenny and the Moonlight events. They are played on the best area courses, with good competition and well-run events by directors Frank and Mary Magee," Lindner said.

NOTES: Lindner said he had a memorable experience recently on the Tour playing in a foursome with former tennis great Ivan Lendl.

Lendl is a four-time winner of the U.S. Open and French Open who was No. 1 in the world from 1985-88. He plays golf to a 4 handicap.

Every one may not love Raymond, the television comedy, but nearly everyone has an opinion about Tiger Woods.

Lindner thinks Woods will stay No. 1 as long as he remains healthy.

As far as seeing someone coming up who will displace him, Lindner couldn't name anyone. However, he said he doesn't follow the tour that closely.

For information about the Tour, log onto that Web site or call 393-8531. The tour is open to aspiring pros and low handicap amateurs.

SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP: The chapter's Senior Championship was won by Palm Harbor's Frank Reynold's, director of golf at the Eagles Golf Club.

Playing at Westchase on Sept. 6, Reynolds shot a 4-under 68 for a two-stroke margin over Joe Lopez of Crystal River. Reynolds won $575.

In the 50-59 age division, Vito Saputo of Silver Oaks won with a 75.

Rick Dingus finished second with a 76, followed by Bill Rinaldo of Scotland Yards (79) and Pete Matthews of Tampa (79).

In 50-and-over, Ron Bakich of River Hills tied with Fran Deschaine of Apollo Beach at 72. Dunedin's Hank Davis of Old Memorial finished third (76).

WEST COAST WOMEN: Terrell Italiano, the 1999 Florida Women's Amateur Champion, shot a career and association record 65 on Aug. 28 at Crescent Oaks.

Italiano, 39, is a member at Palma Ceia.

In her record round, she had nine pars, eight birdies and one bogey.

"I couldn't do anything wrong," Italiano said. "I even chipped in on No. 8 for a par after barely missing a hole-in-one on No. 7."

Sharon Gonsalves of Palma Ceia carded a 76 for second place.

Mary Critchfield of the Bayou Club won low net with a 72, followed by Kim Hollister of Feather Sound (73).

Sallie Abraham of Clearwater Country Club won the A Flight with an 82, and Marty Coogler tied with Pat Bethune of Hunter's Green in the B Flight (87).

Karen Meyer of Tara won Flight C with an 85. Nancy Mag of Innisbrook won Flight D with a 90.

For information on joining the WCWGA, call vice-president Barbara Kroot, 785-0092.

TWIN BROOKS ADULT/JUNIOR: Jeff and Jimmy Weck teamed up to shoot a 66 and win the Pokeman Division of Twin Brooks' annual partners tournament.

Ken and Tim Deacon were second with a 70.

In the Tiger Woods Division, Scott Ruffner was part of a team that tied with Jack and Rob Shortway. Both carded a 66.

PINELLAS MEN'S INTERCLUB: The 10-club, 10-match 2000-2001 season gets underway 1 p.m. Thursday at Lansbrook.

On Monday, the County Golf Association has a 1 p.m. better-ball match at Lakewood Country Club. To register, call 577-4515 during the day.

HOLES-IN-ONE: Golf Digest provides certificates to acers.

Call the magazine's Connecticut Clearinghouse for a registration form, 1-800-344-4469.