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Tourney less of a family affair

The Beacon Woods Invitational has always taken pride in being a homespun tournament where just about every golfer stays with a local family in an arrangement designed to ease costs and facilitate friendships.

Not anymore.

The long-standing tradition was scrapped for this weekend's 26th annual NCAA women's golf tournament, which is co-hosted by the University of South Florida.

"I think the biggest reason it went away was attrition," said Beacon Woods director of golf Dan Martino. "Some of the members here are 80 or older. They're not kids anymore. It just wore on them. I think they just outgrew it."

Instead of having their own rooms, home-cooked meals and the general comforts that come with staying in a home, the golfers will go the standard route and stay in motels along U.S. 19.

"We weren't given much of an explanation as to why the residents weren't hosting players anymore, but I can understand why they would want to do it," USF coach Susan Holt said. "It's an awful lot to ask people to host."

Still, hosting guests was part of the reason the tournament was special to Holt, who played in the invitational as a member of the Ohio State golf team from 1985-87.

"The home-cooked meals were nice, and you always got a lot of support from the families," Holt said.

But though golfers will no longer get a little piece of home on the road, there still are some traditions that are staying put.

Golfers still will be greeted with baked cookies and drinks, compliments of the women in the club. And throughout the tournament, they still will be cheered on, a rare occurrence at a collegiate meet.

"The members are still involved with the tournament," Martino said. "We have volunteers who will be spotters and act as rules officials. That's something I don't think will ever change."

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: 27th annual Beacon Woods Invitational, hosted by the University of South Florida.

WHERE: Beacon Woods Golf Club, Bayonet Point.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

WHO: Women's golf teams from Alabama-Birmingham, Coastal Carolina, Central Florida, East Carolina, Georgia State, Florida International, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisville, South Florida, Southern Mississippi and Stetson.

DIRECTIONS: The course is just north of State Road 52 and east of U.S. 19. From Interstate 75, take S.R. 52 west to Little Road. Turn north on Little and go about a mile, then make a right on Fivay Road. Take that about 2 miles and follow the signs for Beacon Woods Golf Club, located on Clock Tower Parkway.

_ BOB PUTNAM,

Times staff writer

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