Liles paces Ryder Cup qualifier

SEBRING - Blake Liles shot a 5-under 67 to earn medalist honors in Saturday's Highlands County Ryder Cup qualifier at Sebring Golf Club. Liles, a former Sebring High golf standout, had nines of 33-34 for his 67 which included an eagle on the par 5 eighth hole. As medalist, Liles is the Amateur team captain. "It's a real honor to be the captain of the Amateur squad," said Liles. "My 67 was pretty solid and I hit a lot of fairways and greens. I've played in this event twice before, but never as the team captain.
"I think we have a pretty good group of players and our goal is to win." The Amateur team leads the annual series by a score of 10-8, but the pro squad has won the last three events in convincing fashion. The Highlands County Ryder Cup pits the best local amateurs against the area professionals in a two-day competition in best ball, alternate-shot and singles matches. The Highlands County Ryder Cup is set for Oct. 12-13 at Sebring Golf Club. The Ryder Cup qualifier attracted 28 players with the low 12 scores automatically on the team and the next three scores are alternates. Bobby Barben placed second with a 2-under 70, Mike Browning and Sebring High freshman Sam Rogers tied at 73, Curtis Donovan and former Avon Park High standout Greg Gentry each shot 74, Bud Wester, Jeffrey Klingbeil and Larry Roy tied at 75. Rene Brown carded a 76 as did Mike Lingenfelder and Mark Hopkins. Nic Staffieri, Mike Moore and Mike Cleghorn each shot a 77 and are the alternates. To score well on the tight and demanding Sebring Golf Club course, accuracy off the tee and a solid short game are necessary. "You have to keep the ball in play to score well on this course, Liles said. "I think we have a lot of talented players who have a lot of experience and we have a good chance to win." The pro team is stacked as usual with Sebring Golf Club professional Kim Darrow the captain. Sebring Golf Club assistant pro Cody Brownell is on the team along with Pete DuPriest, Ryan Chandler, Jason Laman, Nell Hayes, Mike Lamere, Jason Beatty, Andy Kesling, Geoff Fisk, Cory DeCoteau, Chip Curcio, Dave Schumaker, Jimmy Beasley and Joe Staffieri. The Amateur team is probably the strongest its been in several years," Brownell said. "But we have a pretty good group ourselves and it should be a great two days of competition." Both sides want to win, but the respect and camaraderie between the golfers is what makes this event so special. "This is a great event and playing against the pros is always enjoyable," said Liles. "Their is a lot of respect on both sides and we're looking forward to playing." 863-386-5837