WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Ex-Lady Leopard linkster
and weightlifter will push
back honeymoon for HOF nod
BY TONY CASTRO
For 2005 Hernando High School graduate Tara Allen, September, 2017 may be a month she’ll never forget.
Allen, 30, will celebrate her 11th anniversary on Sept. 3 with another former Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad and golfer, Tom Miller.
The petite 5-foot-2, 125-pounder will be celebrating in style by exchanging marriage vows with Miller at Suntree Country Club in Melbourne.
Miller earned his degree in aviation and airport management and is currently a logistics engineer.
The brown-tressed and brown-eyed Allen graduated from the NAIA Embry-Riddle campus with her bachelor’s of science in Human Factor Psychology in 2008 and her master’s in Human Factors and Systems in 2010.
For the past seven years, she’s worked as a Human Factors Engineer specializing in ergonomic and interface design.
The two engineers, who are both employed at Northrop Grumman Corporation, will continue to reside in Brevard County, but plan on honeymooning in the happiest place on Earth: Disney World in Orlando.
The couple has pushed back its honeymoon in Orange County a few days due for Allen to return back to Brooksville for the Class of 2017 HHS Athletic Hall of Fame induction banquet/dinner on Sept. 14.
Other members of the Class of 2017 HHS HOF also include: Mike Hamilton, Tracy Bridges, Mac Johnson, Allan Leavitt, Kimi Olmstead-O’Connell, Mike Revell and Andrew Williams.
During the Sept. 15 home football game at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium against Lecanto, the eight new members, along with the 1967 HHS Baseball Team and first recipient of Ernie Chatman Legacy Award, Tom Bronson Sr., will also be feted.
Tracing her athletic roots, at age 4 at the Little Peoples’ Day Care, she showed a natural ability to roller skate.
After being enrolled at the Rainbow Rollerland speed skating team, Allen competed for the next five years.
But as the years mounted, less and less of the kids continued to skate. When the speed skating team dissolved, Allen simply looked for another athletic outlet.
She tried soccer, but didn’t stick with it after a year.
Same with softball.
Her parents vowed that she couldn’t ever be a coach potato.
That’s when the Brooksville Golf and Country Club held a one-week golf clinic.
At 9, Allen picked her first golf club and the rest as they say is history.
“Why did stick with golf? I really liked the individual challenge,” noted Allen. “In speed skating it was me against myself. I was competing against the clock. In golf, I’m really competing against myself and elements the different golf courses throw at me.”
She never looked back from that first links lesson.
She excelled in youth golf for the next seven seasons.
In middle school at Parrott, Allen played three seasons of golf for the Leopards.
After matriculating to the Bell Avenue campus of Hernando High, she earned six athletic letters including four in golf with three different coaches (Darlene Kufner, Rick McGee and Brent Gaustad) and two in weightlifting as a junior and senior.
Ironically, in six years of individual play, she never once reached the FHSAA State Finals.
But Allen, who sees herself as a grinder, was perhaps more a student than athlete.
She carried a 4.0 unweighted grade point average and graduated fifth in her 2005 HHS graduating class.
Besides athletics, she was a three-year member of National Honor Society and a member Who’s Who Among High School Students, she was a four-year member of Key Club and served as Lt. Governor as a junior.
At HHS, she also served in the Interact Club and was voted Hernando County Shrine Queen.
As a Leopard linkster, she terrorized the area golf courses being named All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference three times (freshman, sophomore, junior) before the GCAC was dissolved in the fall of 2004 during Tara’s senior year.
She was the GCAC co-Player of the Year with Lecanto’s Ann Kizer as a sophomore and a junior.
She captured the Class 1A, District 6 title as a sophomore at Saint Leo Abbey and was named to the All-Hernando County squad four times.
During that stretch, Allen was recognized by the Hernando Today as Hernando County’s Player of the Year.
“My years at Hernando High were amazing,” recalled Allen. “It served as a great opportunity to improve. All that hard work and practice definitely prepared me for college. I definitely had no regrets in high school.
“…Sure, there were times my friends were going out, but mom and dad would remind me that I had to get up early for a golf tournament the next day. That was frustrating but the hard work made me look hard at what existed at the end of the tunnel,” offered Allen. ‘It turned into a golf scholarship and academic scholarship at Embry-Riddle. Now, that I’m applying my degree; everything I did before really paid off.”
Life at ERAU
Success did not elude Allen in college, in fact, it followed her.
She was named All-Sun Conference All-Academic (2007-09), named All-Sun Conference and Conference Player of the Year in 2006.
Moreover, Allen was tabbed an NAIA All-America Honorable Mention selection in 2006 and First Team All-America from 2007-09.
She did all this while graduating early in 2008 and then earning her master’s.
To this day, Allen retains seven ERAU school records highlighted by 22 top-10 finishes.
On being named to the HHS HOF, “I really don’t know why,” grinned Allen. “It’s a great honor just to fill out a nomination form, especially at a school where so many great athletes proceeded before me. Make no mistake, this is a huge honor.”
Allen hopes her old college mentor, Maria Lopez, will introduce her in the HOF Banquet.
“When my parents heard, they were beyond overwhelmed and thrilled,” recalled Allen. “I’m hoping my mom, dad, my brother and Tom will all be there with me.
“The first people I have to personally thank are my parents,” explained Allen. “They have helped raise and guide me. They’ve always been there. They’ve literally given me every opportunity to succeed. They’ve made time and had suffered financial sacrifice to follow me.
“…I can’t thank my dad enough. He made it a goal to attend before my senior year at Embry-Riddle to see every one of my college matches. He stuck to his word at great expense,” she added.
“I also have to thank Slade Bucci from Glen Lakes and World Woods, he inspired me and pushed me to be a better golfer and helped me work on certain facets of my game,” said Allen.
“I definitely have to thank my high school coaches, without them I wouldn’t have played in as many tournaments and continued to develop,” stressed Allen. “I also owe Rick Kelso at Southern Woods a big hand. He spent a lot of time making sure I was fitted properly and gave me some great golf course management lessons that I have never forgotten.”
Though she hasn’t penned her acceptance speech, pardon her if wedding details continue to mount.
“I haven’t written it, but I have to include something on how my dad consistently pushed me,” emphasized Allen. “I remember asking him once for some new clubs. He said sure, after I cut my handicap. Then he kept adding conditions, but I kept working hard.
“He eventually told me, see it (success) wasn’t due to the new equipment, it all stemmed back to my hard work and drive and everything would pay off,” said Allen.
After spending nearly 11 years on a golf course, the irony is Allen can’t remember the last time she played due to her work obligations.
“I feel like I’m in a good place right now,” beamed Allen. “I’ve got so many things at work that prevent me from playing.
“After the wedding, when things settle down, I’d like to go back,” she said. “My long term goal is to serve as a volunteer coach, maybe at a high school and give back,” offered Allen. “I think more girls should get involved in golf for the honor and integrity involved, the learning of the rules and networking that comes with the game.”
2017 HHS ATHLETIC HOF