After 54 holes of challenging golf, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said goodbye to TPC Tampa Bay on Sunday and prepared for the imminent departure of his son, Richard, who is replacing Isiah Thomas as head coach at Florida International.
"I'm delighted, but I'm going to miss him terribly," Pitino said of his assistant coach the past three seasons. "One of the greatest things in 35 years of coaching was spending three years with Richard and watching him grow as a basketball coach."
FIU has not confirmed that Richard Pitno will be the new head coach. Thomas was fired earlier this month after going 26-65 in three seasons at FIU.
"You certainly don't want it to end," Pitino said, "but it's his opportunity and it was his decision. Not that I was against it, but I would have loved to have been with him a few more years."
Playing with pros Kenny Perry, Corey Pavin and Tom Jenkins, Pitino's group was 11-under par for the day and 27 under for the tournament.
"We had a great round," said Pitino, a 14-handicap. "On the front, I played way over my head. Then I had an incredible time watching some amazing golf by Kenny Perry."
Lightning founder Phil Esposito was smiling after the final round, despite some fatigue and a painful blister on his right heel that forced him to shed his golf shoes for sandals during Sunday's play.
Playing with pros Russ Cochran, Kirk Triplett and Brad Bryant, Esposito's group finished 18-under for a pro-am event that Esposito is determined to keep on the Champions Tour calendar.
"This tournament needs to stay in Tampa and that's why the Lightning got involved this weekend," Esposito said. "We absolutely want to keep it here and if we do, I'm going to get Wayne Gretzky to play next year, maybe Bobby Orr, too."
Esposito said he played well for most of the three rounds until his legs got weary.
"I had a blast, but to walk around three times in a row with feet that are killing me was tough," he said. "I got tired and when you get tired, you start swinging flat. I can't say enough about how much fun it is to play with these pros. They can still hit it a long way and they've seen it all on a golf course."
Tampa resident Gary Koch struggled in the first two rounds before closing with a 67 that left him 3-over par for the tournament.
Koch sank five birdies before ending his round at No. 9 with his only bogey of the afternoon.
"If you're in the wrong place on this golf course, you're going to pay the price," Koch said. "It's certainly one of the favorites of the guys on the Champions Tour. We're very fortunate to have it right here in Tampa."
Roger Maltbie had a forgettable weekend at the par-71 layout, finishing at 37-over par after posting scores of 83-84-83. …Corey Pavin experienced an adventurous back nine, registering an eagle, two birdies and two bogeys in the final nine holes en route to a 70.