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First-grader displays huge potential

Jonathan Franco has big aspirations.

The 6-year-old believes he can be a pro golfer, and his coach, Tom Shea, believes he has the potential.

If he makes it, Jonathan knows what to expect.

"I think I can make $200 one day."

Shea, the head pro at Fox Hollow, said Jonathan has a lot of talent for someone so young and has been playing for only a year.

"He just showed up one day and wanted to go to our Saturday clinic," Shea said. "He was great. Then he asked for private lessons. He's a lot better in private."

Shea laughed when he said it. Jonathan is as wired as a kid on a three-day Snickers binge.

Wearing sunglasses, a cap and the latest in golf fashion, he looks more like a top-stakes poker player than a golfer, but he knows how to act like a kid as well. He's the life of the party, on and off the tee.

"He's kind of naturally scary as a talented golfer," Shea said. "He is excitable, but in only one year, there's only been two episodes when I've wondered if he had too much candy."

Jonathan is a first-grader at Trinity Elementary and has shot 40 over nine holes on a regulation course. He idolizes Tiger Woods and is addicted to computer golf. That is when he's not watching the Golf Channel.

"He loved golf the first time he played," his mother, Ana, said. "He just kept hitting it, and it just became easy for him. It's a way for him to relax since he can be so hyper."

Jonathan practices as many as three times a day, often in his back yard. His family owns a pool, and Jonathan often hits shots off the deck into the water.

That and his competitive desire have helped him win age group titles on the Pascogolf.com Junior Golf Tour.

"He likes the driving range and loves to practice, but he prefers playing the regular course," Shea said. "He cries when he doesn't win."

Jonathan can drive 120 yards down the center, and Shea said he can only improve. Jonathan would probably agree, but he was wrestling a young golfer.

"Jonathan has calmed down an awful lot," Shea said. "He's like most first-graders. I like to joke with him, and I like to get down to their level. So I turn into half instructor, half clown. Jonathan has a lot of fun, but he's strangely calm when he has to hit a shot."

Jonathan was focused for a moment when asked about his future.

"I just want to keep winning trophies and make a lot of money."

Maybe even $200.

FURTHER UP ON THE ROAD: Fox Hollow will host its annual Beginning Golf for Women clinics for five consecutive Saturdays starting Jan. 22 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kandace Dean, an LPGA pro, will host.

It costs $125 and includes a subscription to Golf for Women. For details, call (727) 376-6333 or toll-free (800) 943-1902.

COMING UP: The next event on the Pascogolf.com Junior Tour is Jan. 22 at Silver Dollar in Odessa. For details, call (813) 920-3884.

Please report any golf news, including holes-in-one, upcoming events and results, to Jeff Berlinicke at (727) 893-2251 or jberlinickeatt.net.

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