TAMPA — There is a good news-bad news situation going on out at Tampa Palms Country Club.
It’s good news for Freedom High junior golfer Terese Romeo, who makes the course her home, but it’s bad news for her competition this upcoming season.
The pair of wrist surgeries that limited the Patriots leader early in her sophomore season and only prepared her to capture a district crown and finish tied for 11th at the Class 2A state tournament a season ago are now in the past.
Romeo shows no lingering aches, is no longer sporting a brace on her right wrist and she’s cruising in amateur matches. So much so, that Romeo has been selected by First Tee of Tampa Bay to represent the organization — run in conjunction with the YMCA — at Pebble Beach in California at next month’s 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open, Sept. 27-29.
“First Tee lets you have the impact where you can be a good golfer and a good leader,” Romeo said. “We accept everybody and whatever level they may be in.”
In her first American Junior Golf Association event, the 18-hole TaylorMade-adidas Golf Qualifier for the David Leadbetter Junior Classic, Romeo took the girls division, shooting a 73 and later finishing fourth in the Leadbetter Classic in June.
“We are thrilled Terese has been selected to represent The First Tee of Tampa Bay at Pebble Beach,” says Jeff Leonard, program director for The First Tee of Tampa Bay. “Terese is a great example of all for which The First Tee stands. All the hard work and perseverance she has shown over the past couple years has been rightly recognized. It is fantastic to see her rewarded with this selection to play in The First Tee’s premier event.”
Romeo, a first-team All-Hillsborough County selection last season, started the regular season still limited by her recovery, but instead of riding out the time on the sideline, she took to area courses playing only with her left hand. She competed, often against opponents’ lower-ranked players and found while she was recovering she was enjoying a whole new part of the game.
“The wrist injury was something I had to deal with,” Romeo said. “But it also gave me a whole new respect for the game of golf. It showed me how much my life really was about golf.
“It made me realize how much I like teaching the game and being around people who love the game, and that helped the time go by while I (healed).”
The role of mentor was one Romeo quickly took to, and through organizations like First Tee she has found a new part of the game to love.
“She has a helper’s mentality,” Terese’s father, Ron said. “It is so easy for her to walk up to a teammate and make a suggestion.
“In the individual tournaments yes, she likes it. But it isn’t that friendly a setting. With a team, and with younger players, she really does thrive.”
Romeo will join 80 other players from the First Tee program — an organization with 188 national and international programs — playing in the field of more than 300 golfers including other youth programs and adult professionals, in the three-day tournament.
She said she is looking forward to the event at Pebble Beach, one of her dream destinations, not only for the chance to play on the famous links, but to improve her game on all levels.
“I’m still me. I’m not perfect,” Romeo said. “I try and stay humble, and I know there are a lot of girls who were better than me, but I’m going to watch them and the professionals and learn as much as I can.”