Two East Lake graduates are turning a University of South Florida rebuilding year into a successful season.
Brad Quiri, a 2000 Times first-team selection, and Ryan Shears have been leading the Bulls early in their schedule.
In the recent USF Invitational, Shears was the squad's top scorer with a 54-hole total of 224, including a 72. His career-best three-round performance helped South Florida finish third in a field of 15 teams.
In the following tournament at Louisiana State, Quiri tied for first among the Bulls with a 220, including two rounds of 1-under 71.
USF coach Jim Fee said Quiri and Shears are solid players who are coming on strong in only their second season.
"Ryan is getting more comfortable with the college athletic atmosphere," Fee said. "He felt the pressure last year. This year, he's playing more confidently, hitting the ball much better. I expect he'll continue to play better the rest of the season."
Shears averaged 77 last year as a freshman. He has lowered his score to 75.5.
"This year, I'm working on my mental toughness and putting," said Shears, referring in particular to playing in adverse weather conditions, such as in Louisiana.
"It's great playing again on the same team with Brad. We duel a lot," Shears said. "We love competing against each other." Shears had to make a major decision as an East Lake senior, when he was the football squad's returning starter at quarterback.
In 2000, high school golf in the county and state reverted to a fall schedule, forcing him to make a choice. Shears picked golf, and he has no regrets.
"I'm striving to play professionally in two years," he said. "If my game is there, that's what I'd like to do.
"I'm happy at USF playing for Coach Fee, playing again with Brad and striking the ball a lot better this year."
Fee also is high on Quiri, who has lowered his average to 75.2.
"Brad plays a draw, which sometimes gets him in trouble," Fee said. "But his strength is that he always fights back."
The Bulls, with players from England, Mexico and Uruguay, host the Conference USA Championship on April 21-23 at Lake Jovita Country Club in Dade City. With Quiri and Shears leading the way, they hope to improve on last season's fourth-place finish.
USF INVITATIONAL NOTE: Clearwater High grad Ryan Gildersleeve, South Alabama's No. 1 player, shot 233 to edge Quiri by a stroke on the USF course. Gildersleeve opened with a 2-under 69 and slipped to 86 the second day during rain and high wind.
MORE COLLEGE: Amanda Dick (Countryside High) leads the Florida Gators this season with a 75.17 average. Aimee Cho is second (75.40) on the women's team, and Jeanne Cho (75.82) is third.
The Gators will try to defend their SunTrust Invitational crown this week in Gainesville.
WOMEN: Michelle Simpson of New Smyrna Beach shot 69-72_141 to win the Tarpon Springs-based Next Generation Tour event at Heritage Isles in Tampa. Simpson beat Tiffany Faucette of Ormond Beach by two strokes, receiving $1,500.
Spots are available for the tour's next match, March 19-20 at Bloomingdale Golfers Club in Valrico. Aspiring pros and amateurs with handicaps of 10 or less should call Beverly Albanese, 251-8317.
Mary Ann Petrillo of Tierra Verde won the West Coast Women's match at the Bayou Club with a 5-over 77. She finished three strokes ahead of Kathy Hunt and Burma Blekicki.
The Futures Tour, based in Lakeland, opens its 23rd season Friday at the Lakeland Futures Classic. Sue-Ginter Brooker of Appleton, Wis., is the defending champ.
PUTTING CHAMPIONSHIP: At the All-In-One Golf Center in Largo, Joe Davi of Tampa captured the Tampa Bay title in a sudden-death playoff with Lakeland's Jason Richards.
Mike Adams of Largo was third after beating Clearwater's Randy Ware. Defending champion Cindy Hall, Clearwater, settled for fifth.
As part of the winner's awards, Davi got to putt (from 50 feet) for a Jaguar. He missed by 2 inches. However, the consolation prize was to keep the car for a weekend.
ANNUAL EVENT: Cadadesi RV Park had its tournament at Tarpon Springs Golf Course last month.
The winner, Pete Sarich, prevailed for the third straight year. He carded a 92 to edge Bob Johnson by a stroke and third-place finisher Buz Pemberton by two.
Gary Mason won low net with an 80.
CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS: Shelley Urban beat defending champion Sallie Abraham, 4 and 2, for the women's title at Clearwater Country Club.
The men's crown went 21 holes, with Mike Lux making up eight strokes for a victory over Mark Marshall. Defending champion George Leone was third, followed by Hoyt Hamilton.
JUNIORS: Oldsmar's Mason Gregg crafted a par-69 on the Chi Chi course in Countryside, winning the boys 13-14 division in a Florida Suncoast Junior Tour event. Wesley Graham of Port Orange had the same score in topping the 11-12 class.
Kristin Conley, 11, Oldsmar, aced the 90-yard sixth hole at Chi Chi's in a Feb. 23 match.
On Saturday, 12-year-old David Raz of Tarpons Springs fired a 66 at Chi Chi's from the red tees. He had six birdies and a bogey.
"That's the best score of a Suncoast Tour member in three years," said Phyllis Lewellyn, director of the junior program.
Raz takes lessons from John Wright at the Countryside Learning Center. Raz will enter East Lake High in 2004.
Jason Elliott, a Palm Harbor University junior, tied for third in a Florida Junior Golf Association match at Scotland Yards in Dade City.
He will attend a camp at Gainesville later this month. Former Tarpon Springs High standout Mike Koulianos will be the instructor. He is an assistant coach at UF.
Applications for Tampa Bay Junior Golf Foundation scholarships for the class of '03 are being accepted.
Applicants must graduate from a public high school and have been on a golf team or work in the industry to be eligible.
For an application, call (727) 942-3737.
TAP INS: The Tampa Bay Downs Practice Facility opened Saturday. It has a 275-yard range, plus bunkers and greens covering more than two acres.
On Thursday, Crescent Oaks will play host to the monthly match of the Pinellas Men's Interclub Association. A 12:30 p.m. tee off is scheduled.
On March 22, the grand opening of St. Andrews Links in Dunedin will be celebrated with contests, prizes, entertainment and food.
To contact the course owned and operated by the city of Dunedin, call 733-5061.