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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Noodling with a more buoyant plan

— Everything Bill Schroder learned from three years as commissioner of a charity golf tournament with an unwieldy name fits, appropriately, in a mollusk shell. Which is appropriate, because, all in all, he’d rather go scalloping.

It probably didn’t help that Schroder, who dreams big if he dreams at all, had in mind making the Guinness World Records book not only by staging the “world’s largest free memorial golf tournament,” but by turning it into an annual event.

Alas, it turns out coordinating the schedules of 10 area courses in that sweet spot of early spring (when our winter visitors have begun migrating north, but before the heat cranks up), while next to impossible, is the easy part. Simultaneously holding onto established sponsors and cultivating new ones, however, is harder than cutting a 3-wood to the 16th green at Cypress Point when the wind is up. String theory is easier.

Held in May, the third and, presumably, last annual tournament, minus its global ambitions, was comfortably contained by the Abbey Course at St. Leo.

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Even then, however, Schroder was onto a new project, one with designs equally noble but absent the headaches of skittish marketing vice presidents, rain dates and absent-minded assistant golf pros in charge of scheduling. Now as then, Schroder means to honor Justin Inversso, the remarkable Pasco High graduate and University of South Florida engineering student who, while hustling swimmers to safety from the popular Key West Rapids water slide as an Adventure Island lifeguard, died in a lightning strike.

That was Sept. 10, 2011. Inversso turned 21 the day before, a stretch of years in which no one could remember anything said of him that wasn’t full of praise, an achievement that inspired Schroder to establish The Perfect 10 Charity, accessible online at www.theperfect10charity.com.

The operation acts as a liaison between small nonprofit organizations and folks needing to satisfy a generous impulse, sort of a grass-roots United Way without employees or an advertising budget. “Every dime goes to the charities that link up with us,” Schroder says. Among them are The Thomas Promise in Zephyrhills, providing food to needy kids to get them through each school-year weekend; Dade City Little League; Sunrise of Pasco; and local chapters of Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs.

What’s any of this to do with scalloping? Glad you asked.

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Harvesting Florida’s Gulf of Mexico scallop beds, stretching from the Pasco-Hernando county line almost to Panama City, is rewarding but tedious and occasionally dangerous work, given the number of inexperienced captains piloting rented boats in shallow waters crowded with snorkeling prospectors.

A veteran scalloper with a getaway home near Homosassa Springs, Schroder wanted something that would provide buoyancy while alerting boaters to his presence. Finding nothing suitable on the market, he re-purposed a couple of floatable pool noodles into something resembling a gigantic spongy stirrup for Gators fans: an orange arch (for visibility) punched through small holes at either end of a blue base, lashed in place with crisscrossing plastic cable ties.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Scallop Doodle.

“People see them, they want them,” Schroder says. While he was happy to oblige, he also saw opportunity. The contraptions are easily constructed — once you get the hang of it, you could turn out three dozen in a single hour of “SportsCenter” — and the materials aren’t particularly expensive. Suppose, instead of standing outside the grocery store in their uniforms rattling buckets at passersby, Little Leaguers would trade a Scallop Doodle for a donation?

Don’t scallop? That’s OK. How about its cousin, what Schroder calls the “Noodle Doodle,” cut-down noodles connected by a loop of colorful nautical rope to form a remarkably supportive floating chair?

Just now, Schroder and his small army of recruits — retirees and fellow Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club residents Jack Hermann, Hugh Younger and John Delaney — have distributed roughly 500 Noodle Doodles in east Pasco to swap for donations to designated The Perfect 10 Charity organizations.

Publix stores in Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills are scheduled to have them from 1 to 4 p.m. today. They’ll also be available each day next week at the Abbey Golf Course, San Ann Self Storage in San Antonio, in Dade City at Olga’s Bakery, at CenterState Bank in Dade City and Zephyrhills and at Thomas and Son auto sales in Zephyrhills.

“While supplies last,” Schroder says, but given the grandeur of his vision, I’m tempted not to believe him. The materials are cheap and the labor is free, eager and good-natured. Exhaust the supply; they’ll make more.

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