Forget the money, the perks, the high-priced hotels . . . the Tour has come to Pasco County.
Okay, it's not the PGA Tour. And there is no money involved. But to county youngsters, there's an equivalent to the big time. Fox Hollow Golf Club head professional Tom Shea has started the Pascogolf.com Junior Golf Tour, a series of monthly events through July at eight county courses.
Participating courses are The Groves Golf Club, Silver Dollar Golf Club, Gulf Harbors Golf Course, Magnolia Valley Golf Club, Seven Springs Golf and Country Club, River Ridge Golf Club, Forest Hills Country Club and Fox Hollow.
Shea said he came up with the idea of starting a tour last summer.
"I like to teach the kids during the summer," Shea said. "The kids are always looking for other things to do, so we knew the kids wanted to work on their game. We created the tournament concept so that they could play once a month at courses throughout the county.
He got the idea after he was approached by Bonnie Salerno, the mother of Carolyn Salerno, a Mitchell High senior who was named St. Petersburg Times first-team all-county. Salerno approached Shea and asked if there were chances for the students to continue playing after the high school season. Shea took the idea and started the Pasco Tour, patterned after the Greater Tampa Tour and the Pinellas Junior Tour. He also worked one year at First Tee of Tampa, an organization designed to work with youngsters. He realized that there was plenty of young talent in the county.
"Why not do something local?" Shea said. "We have a good mix of kids in the area and we have different kinds of courses. We have executive courses and championship courses, so there's something for everybody."
Shea does a lot of teaching at Fox Hollow and his students, all of whom will participate on the tour, swear by him.
"The tournaments are fun," Shayne Grubb, 12, said. "We get to tee off on the red tees, and it's fun because I usually win."
Shea has set a limit of 100 players per tournament, but is hoping to expand if the demand increases.
"It give the kids a chance to learn the game on an actual golf course, instead of the driving range," Shea said. "They get to learn the difference between tournament play and just practicing. It's all about developing them into being better golfers and letting them have fun while they are doing it."
To play on the tour, there is an annual fee of $30 and a tournament fee of $20. The players receive presents and lunch at each tournament. There will be an awards ceremony to honor the overall winners of each age group.
GLORY DAYS: Russ Stefany, a resident of Heritage Pines Country Club, carded his first hole-in-one at the Golden Gates Country Club, Naples. It was 135 yards over water. Bill Habermeyer had an ace at Saddlebrook Resort on Dec. 29, using a 3-wood on the 207-yard hole.
TAKING REQUESTS: If you have anything to report relating to Pasco County golf, such as coming events, tournament results or holes-in-one, please contact Jeff Berlinicke at (727) 892-2251 or at jberlinickeatt.net.
From left, Shayne Grubb, 12, of New Port Richey, Alec Dunagan, 9, of Tarpon Springs, Austin Richardson, 12, of Trinity and Jonathan Franco, 6, of New Port Richey practice at the Fox Hollow Golf Club with pro Tom Shea.