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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

County linksters well-represented in regionals

Hernando Today correspondent


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Never before have five Hernando County prep links programs been represented in a regional tournament.

But that's exactly the case in Tuesday's rugged Class 2A, Region V Boys Golf Tournament at Fox Hollow Golf Club in New Port Richey.

The 18-hole event is expected to begin at 9 a.m. with nine area teams and nine individuals - representing Districts 13-15.

Hernando County will be well-represented by three complete teams including District 13 champion Springstead, runner-up Nature Coast Technical and third-place finisher Hernando, along with Weeki Wachee junior Michael Rampino and Central junior Jans Tamayo.

Only the top two teams and top two individuals not associated with those teams will advance to the 83nd FHSAA Finals set for Oct. 29-30 in Lake County.

Three local programs - NCT, Weeki Wachee and Central - have never been represented at states.

Springstead placed 10th at states 23 seasons ago in 1990 while Hernando was last represented at states by Fred Farmer in 2000.

Springstead claimed its first-ever district title in 1990 behind Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year Danny Latoria.

In 2008 at Summerfield's Eagle Ridge Country Club, Eagle medalist Kevin Hubbard paced the Spring Hill linksters to their second district crown.

Last Monday at Silverthorn Country Club, the Eagles denied the host Sharks their first-ever district title by edging NCT in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff, 17-18. The two squads completed regulation deadlocked at 349.

SHS will be represented by senior Brazon Dixon (team-best 39.8 nine-hole average), junior Ben Cash (43.6), junior Brendan Pfent (45.1), senior Ryan O'Connell (46.9) and freshman Brett Maharaj (48.0).

Dixon fared the best at Silverthorn placing second overall in the 2A-13 Meet with an 18-hole 38-41-79.

Dixon is the lone Eagle linkster with any previous regional experience. As a freshman, he carded an 18-hole 91 in the 2A-II Tournament at Fleming Island

Monday's win at Silverthorn came as a pleasant surprise to second-year SHS skipper Greg Odachowski.

"I was surprised we won districts, so I hope the boys play decent in regionals," explained Odachowski, the defending Hernando Today Coach of the Year. "I think it will be a little

harder because this is a course they are not familiar with. We will play a practice round, but I am not sure that will be enough practice for them to really get familiar with the intricacies of the course.

"Our goal is to play well and see how we compare to other teams in the region," he added. "With other districts in our region, I would be very surprised if one of my golfers medaled. I hope the pressure doesn't get to the golfers, but this is a pretty big tournament and for most it's the first time they are playing in something like this."

NCT, which completed the regular season behind a county-best 13-3, hopes to bounce back Tuesday, albeit against much tougher competition.

The Sharks are expected to be represented by junior Jake Arnett (county-best 37.4), seniors Brandon LaMondra (45.3), Nick Feola (46.5) and Joe Powanda (46.8), and sophomore Dan Wempe (46.9).

Arnett fired an even par 34-38-72 total to collect his second individual district championship.

Completing his evaluation of the 2A-13 Tourney, ninth-year NCT mentor Tom Brown shrugged, saying, "When you lose by one shot in sudden death everyone could have affected the outcome. Pressure does that. In practice, there's no pressure; it's different when you get out here in the big matches.

"Even if you're up by a stroke or two coming down the stretch, you've got to keep playing aggressively. Our guys have to maintain their focus."

After playing a practice round at Fox Hollow, "Some of the teams coming here will be devastated," explained Brown. "The greens are rolling and they played out pretty slick. And there's lots of water. I'm not sure there are many kids that can carry the ball over the water after the third tee box."

As far as tourney favorites, Brown pointed out, "Both (host) Mitchell and Tampa-Jesuit have to be the favorites. They've got some older kids who carry shots consistently over 200 yards. If I had to guess two of the dark horses might be Tarpon Springs and Dunedin - problem is none of our teams have played those guys."

As far as the Sharks' goal, "I'd be thrilled with anything better than fourth place," insisted Coach Brown. "It's a new region, this year is a lot different than the teams we've gone up against for almost 10 years - there's an unknown element out there."

On the keys to success at Fox Hollow, "Our guys have to keep the ball toward the center of the greens," noted Brown. "And we have to limit the mistakes off the tees, otherwise the water comes into play."

Brown believes Arnett may be the Sharks' best bet to advance.

"Jake's hitting the ball well right now," detailed Coach Brown. "At districts, his putting was awful, but he beat guys because he got up and down so well. On Tuesday, he's going to have to make some putts."

Hernando will be led by senior Cody Montgomery. Montgomery is making his fourth regional appearance.

Montgomery ranks second in the county in scoring average (38.8). He carded a seven-over-par 79 at the 2A-13 Tournament.

The remainder of the Leopard squad is expected to feature: sophomore Pierce Kimbrough (43.8), freshman Zayne Vasquez (46.4), and juniors Bryan Mitko (47.1) and Daniel Merritt III (49.4).

"We definitely left some shots on the course," pointed out first-year HHS mentor Rodney Byrd. "On Tuesday, we can't get caught up with the pressure of regionals. At this level, it's about course management."

In evaluating Fox Hollow, Byrd said, "The greens are true and fast, it's a pretty decent course with lots of water and sand bunkers."

Central's Tamayo arrives averaging 49.8 shots per nine holes. He carded an 18-hole 47-47-94 total at Silverthorn to advance.

"Jans is an outstanding kid and comes from a great, supportive family," explained first-year Bears skipper Tyson Ellis. "He's got a great head on his shoulders. He's going out there Tuesday to have some fun; there's no pressure on him.

"I'm glad he came out. He's doing us a favor by playing," noted Ellis. "Each match he's a little bit better. I really think he's capable of shooting in the mid-80s. This tourney serves as a great learning experience. For a guy who hadn't picked up a club in a couple years, he's played amazingly well."

Weeki Wachee's Rampino arrives averaging 42.2 per nine holes - ranking fourth in the county.

In his first regional appearance last fall, Rampino carded a 99.

"Mike is looking forward to this opportunity," explained WWHS' third-year mentor Craig Witte. "This is the second year he has made regionals. He believes he can compete with any player there and his goal is still to make the state finals. He shot very well at districts (47-36-83)

on Monday and has learned from his one hiccup there. He has had a very good week of practice and will be prepared to compete on Tuesday."

???The 2A-V Girls Tournament will held minutes away from Fox Hollow beginning at noon at Heritage Springs Country Club.

Hernando County will be represented by complete teams from 2A-13 runner-up Hernando and third-place finisher Nature Coast Technical, along with Springstead seniors Kiki Schau and Kylie Van Meter and Weeki Wachee senior Holly Brumfiel playing 18 holes.

Anyone from Hernando County is looked at as a longshot to advance past the rugged regional to the 64th FHSAA Finals on Oct. 29-30 in Lake County.

Hernando finished fifth last year in regionals at Black Bear Golf and Country Club in Eustis with a 473 total.

Only sophomore Lauren Moore and senior Taylor Milligan return from that team.

The Lady Leopards will be represented by Moore (team-best 56.4 average), junior Chanyanuch "Pop" Pongsane (61.0), Milligan (61.1), junior Erika Lewis (66.9) and senior Heather Weeks (70.0).

As far as an encore, "We worked all week on our short game," explained third-year HHS mentor Casey Ellis. "Our goal is to continue to do what we've been doing since the Citrus match. We might not be the best team out there on Tuesday, but we're going to battle. I can promise you we're not going in there with a defeatist attitude."

NCT, which entered 2A-13 unbeaten at 7-0-0, suffered a healthy reality check at Silverthorn.

"Yeah, I was surprised not at Fivay winning, but that we'd lose so badly to Hernando (by 15 shots)," indicated sixth-tear mentor Cheryl Paradis. "But we're not going to cry over spilled milk. What happened Monday is done and over with. I have to admit, I was much more disappointed than the girls were."

On Tuesday, "We're looking for a great round of golf," said the ever-optimistic Paradis. "Our girls do not focus on the product, but on the process. They're into the game and not the end result.

"Heritage Springs has water and narrow fairways. It's also a flat golf course," she added. "That should play nicely for our girls. All I want our girls to do is play the game like they're capable of doing."

At Springstead, even though Van Meter (48.7) and Schau (48.8) rank 1-2 in the county scoring, first-year skipper Bill Vonada understands the magnitude of the task ahead.

"Obviously on Tuesday it'll be a lot tougher competition than at districts," said Vonada. "You can't get too caught up with the other golfers. It's a stage where every shot matters."

Vonada believes Mitchell, Zephyrhills and Land O' Lakes are the top three teams.

"Once the top two teams are decided, then we've got a shot with our two girls," Vonada said. "I'd like our girls to enjoy the atmosphere. They've got to attack each hole. I'm really happy they're both going, I just don't want them going in satisfied."

Weeki Wachee's Brumfiel arrives averaging a team-best 64.1 shots per nine holes. She's the Lady Hornets first-ever regional qualifier.

"We are honored to be a part of this competition," explained second-year Lady Hornets mentor Linda Rogers. "Holly is a fierce competitor and is looking forward to the challenge. We have set personal goals for her. She has only been playing since August."

At a Glance

What - Class 2A, Region V Boys Golf Tournament.

Who - Nine teams and nine individuals featuring: Springstead, Nature Coast Technical and Hernando's complete teams along with Weeki Wachee junior Mike Rampino and Central junior Jans Tamayo.

Where - Fox Hollow Golf Club, 10050 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, New Port Richey.

When - Tuesday at 9 a.m.

At Stake - Top two teams and top two finishers not associated with those teams advance to Oct. 29-30 83rd annual Class 2A FHSAA Finals at Howey-in-the-Hills in Lake County.

What - Class 2A, Region V Girls Golf Tournament.

Who - Nine teams featuring Hernando and Nature Coast Technical, along with Springstead seniors Kiki Schau and Kylie Van Meter and Weeki Wachee senior Holly Brumfield.

Where - Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, New Port Richey.

When - Tuesday at noon

At Stake - Top two teams and top two finishers not associated with those teams advance to Oct. 29-30 64th annual FHSAA Finals in Lake County.

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