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Oversized drive

With a week to get ready, there was only so much she could do.

On prom night, a few blond spirals dangled around her face _ hair that usually is hidden under a cap or contained in a ponytail. She felt like a vampire in all the makeup but trusted her mother, who told her she was pretty. The dress, which she found in less than a half-hour while killing time at the mall before a movie, was black with a stream of rhinestones trickling down the side and a sophisticated slit.

As well as Brittany Lincicome cleaned up, she knew the first thing people would do was look down.

"At night it's worse," she said. "My feet glow."

She couldn't camouflage the line burned along her ankles from wearing socks during hours of playing golf each day. She didn't mind. There is a group of girls she knows who have similar tan lines.

"At golf tournaments it makes me feel like I'm a good golfer," she said.

For Lincicome, 17, being good at golf outweighs almost everything, especially the need to have an even tan.

The natural

Brittany Lincicome is good. She is the seventh-ranked junior in the nation, according to the Golfweek/Titleist poll. She wants to be No. 1. The closest she came was the No. 2 spot, where she spent a brief time when she was 15.

Golf didn't enter her world until about four years earlier. Lincicome's two older brothers and her father, Tom, played for fun at a neighborhood par-3. She went out to hit with them, and Tom noticed something in his daughter's powerful swing. He said he noticed something special.

"You could tell the talent was there," said Tom Lincicome, a recreational golfer.

Lincicome seemed to have the game figured out at an early age. Her natural ability didn't faze her. At 10, she scored a hole in one, and while her brothers and father went crazy she simply thought: "It would be so much easier if I could do that every single time."

Tom and Lincicome's mother, Angie, got her a private instructor and slowly stepped into the world of competitive golf. Tom didn't buy the handbook on how to guide a fledgling golfer. He felt his way around, watching others such as Tampa native Beth Bauer, the LPGA's rookie of the year last season. He saw what worked and what didn't, ultimately making decisions by what seemed to make sense.

Lincicome started out in local youth tournaments. After she succeeded there, she was challenged in the Greater Tampa series. Then she moved up to the more competitive Florida Junior Golf Association events and finally, at 14, she moved on to the American Junior Golf Association national tour.

To progress to each phase, golf became a larger part of Lincicome's life. Tournaments often started on Fridays, which meant she had to miss school, so much that the family decided she would be home-schooled. Lincicome hasn't had a full day of class since sixth grade.

Team Lincicome

Much of what Brittany does is a family matter. Tom does all of her scheduling and spends most of the summer driving her about 20,000 miles from tournament to tournament.

Her parents, who lost most of their belongings in an electrical fire at their home in 2001, are waiting until she is settled at the next level, in college or on the professional tour, before rebuilding. For now they rent a home in Seminole.

"We've put our lives on hold for Brittany," Angie said.

Golf has become the core of the Lincicome household.

"It takes a family commitment to be able to accomplish something like this," Tom said.

Tom said if the family had budgeted what it would cost for her to pursue her goal beforehand, they probably would not have done it.

"But we did and we survive. What we spend on her is well worth it," said Tom, who runs a preschool in Pinellas Park with Angie.

They don't keep records of what it has cost them, but Tom estimates travel alone costs about $17,000 a year. Then there are daily course fees and tournament entry fees.

The family sold their first house and started renting, and when they travel they stay at the Holiday Inn Express instead of the more expensive tournament-recommended hotels.

"I want her to think she's had as good an advantage as other kids," Angie said. "I saw golf as a gift. We protected and molded it."

They admit that sometimes the molding has been overprotective. She has a 10:30 p.m. curfew, and once, while Brittany was at a movie, Angie called nine times to check on her.

"They do it because they love me, but sometimes it makes me mad," Lincicome said. "They don't want me to ruin something for my future."

Alone with everybody

Lincicome plays so much golf in a week, sometimes it gets boring. On a typical weekday, she arrives at Bardmoor around 9 a.m. and can practice as late as 6 p.m. Most of that time is spent alone, chipping, putting and driving. She gets company if someone comes through looking for an extra player. The teaching pros form a makeshift golf academy, hitting with her during their free time. And once a week she gets intensive instruction from her private instructor, Matt Mitchell, at his complex near Tampa Bay Downs. She used to drive to Jacksonville for a weekly lesson.

"It's like a job now _ as much as I practice, the things I have to give up, not going to school, not having as many friends . . ." Brittany said. "Golf is pretty much my life."

Her list of friends changes depending on who she is with. At Bardmoor she hangs out with the pros. On tour it's fellow junior golfers. If she is with her parents, their friends are her friends too.

When she was younger, her birthday parties always were at the family's house and attended by her parents' students. She went to a small Baptist elementary school, where she says she kept to herself. Her friends were three neighborhood boys. They played rough _ rock fights near the railroad tracks and games with no blood, no foul rules.

"That probably made me tough; hanging out with the guys," Lincicome said. "If I'd hung out with the girls I don't know what I'd be like."

Now, to be around more people her age, she plays golf for Seminole High. Because she hits much longer than the average teenage girl, she plays on the boys team, but in the offseason she plays against the girls from the shorter tees.

"Half the time, the guys don't like me because I beat them," Lincicome said.

The socialization project worked for the most part. She went to homecoming with some Seminole teammates and attended several football games, where she had "never seen so many kids in one place at one time."

The next level

At 15, she decided she wanted to be a professional golfer.

"It's all about the money," Lincicome said. "It's sad but true."

She doesn't come off as egotistical or materialistic. But she knows that if she becomes a successful professional golfer, she could make a lot of money to buy her parents a nice house and provide for both of her grandmothers in West Virginia. She wants to make life a little easier for the people she loves.

Locally, people expect big things from Lincicome, known as the girl who is 6 feet tall and can drive the ball 250, 270 or 300 yards.

"In basketball terms, she jumps out of the gym," said Mitchell, her instructor. "She's got power.

Does that make her good enough to turn pro tomorrow? Not necessarily. And it may not happen next year. She didn't make the corner of the cover of Sports Illustrated at 13 like Michelle Wie, but one doesn't have to be a phenom to make a living on the LPGA Tour.

She needs to be good consistently. Though she wouldn't mind turning pro after she graduates from high school, her original goal, she knows that may be a few steps away.

Stephen Hamblin, executive director of the AJGA, said he could see Lincicome going to college and developing into a professional.

"Tremendous potential," Hamblin said. "She's got a shot at the big time if she keeps working hard."

The first time Hamblin saw her play was a few years ago at an AJGA tournament in Georgia. He watched her take a lead into the final day. She held on, playing smart and shooting 65 to win. Lincicome had a similar round in a tournament in Tampa last week, winning by 11 strokes.

"She could execute," Hamblin said. "She proved she could take care of the tournament. Mentally, she has what it takes. Physically, she has what it takes."

Some of Lincicome's teen counterparts already have started testing themselves against top competition. Seven of the 14 teenagers in the U.S. Women's Open made the cut. Lincicome has played against several of them and is ranked above two of them, including Morgan Pressel.

After years of steady progression, team Lincicome is in no rush. With a year left for Brittany in high school, Tom has scheduled more women's events such as pro-ams, Futures tournaments and U.S. Women's Amateur qualifiers. How well she plays will determine what's next: professional golf or college.

While college would have to be someplace warm, Lincicome isn't set on either option. She figures she will make it either way.

"They say I have to believe," she said.

Lincicome remembers her first autograph, when she signed a hot dog wrapper for a 7-year-old boy in Virginia. If things work out the way she wants, by the time this golf thing is over, she will have signed her name too many times to count.

MEET BRITTANY LINCICOME

AGE: 17

HEIGHT: 6 feet

HOMETOWN: Seminole

CURRENT NATIONAL JUNIOR RANK: Seventh

BIG WINS: In 2000, at 14, she got her first national win in her second AJGA tournament at Innisbrook; in 2001 she shot 65, her lowest round, to win the Golf Junior tournament at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Ga., beating Aree Song, the best teen finisher in this year's U.S. Women's Open.

NOTABLE: 2002 Class 2A high school state champion. 2002-03 Florida Dairy Farmers girls high school player of the year. Has set four course records. Already has two junior wins after finishing last season with seven second-place finishes. Finished second on this year's Canon Cup points list and will represent the Eastern region team in a match-play tournament. Ranked third on the Junior points list for the Solheim Cup, which is Sept. 13-14 in Sweden.

_ Compiled by Laura Lee.

Brittany Lincicome waits as a snapping turtle crosses the green during a practice round at Bardmoor. "I've been playing here for five years and never seen one," she said.

Lincicome leans on fellow golfers such as Eric Blanchard, who tried to qualify for the U.S. Open, to keep her motivated.

Brittany Lincicome joined the golf team at Seminole High to make friends, and she was able to attend the prom with teammates, above. Below, tutor Jennifer McQuarrie, left, helps Lincicome with basic math and pre-algebra problems as part of her homeschooling.

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