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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Three-horse district race expected at Silverthorn

Hernando Today correspondent


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On Monday, seven teams - including two from Pasco County and five from Hernando County - will compete in the first leg of the state series in boys golf.

Pasco County's Hudson and Fivay will join Hernando County entries Central, Hernando, Nature Coast Technical, Springstead and Weeki Wachee at Silverthorn Country Club for the Class 2A, District 13 Tournament.

The event is expected to begin at 12:30 p.m. with a shotgun start.

The top three teams and top three individuals not associated with those three teams will advance to the Oct.22 2A-Region V Tournament at Fox Hollow in New Port Richey.

The ultimate prize for all five area teams is an invite to the 83rd annual FHSAA Finals on Oct. 29-30 at Howey-in-the-Hills in Lake County.

District host Nature Coast (13-3-0) closed out its finest regular season with a perfect 10-0-0 slate against Hernando County squads.

The Sharks' lone blemishes include a pair of setbacks to two-time 1A state champion Saddlebrook Academy and a split with defending 1A-8 champion Crystal River.

Ninth-year skipper Tom Brown is seeking the Sharks' first-ever district title.

NCT earned a second-place district trophy last fall at The Dunes as the Sharks and Dunnellon Tigers edged Hernando in a thrilling second-day, sudden-death playoff to advance to regionals.

The Sharks arrive with a 2A-13-leading 176 average per nine holes.

According to the tourney director Brown, however, there's very little separation between Hernando County's top three teams.

For example, Springstead also arrives averaging 176 while and Hernando is right behind at 177.

As a result, NCT has downplayed its one-stroke and two-stroke wins over HHS, and two-stroke and eight-stroke wins over Springstead.

"Our record is a bit deceiving. We could very easily be 10-6 instead of 13-3," detailed Coach Brown. "We've pulled out a couple of really close matches."

NCT will be represented by junior Jake Arnett (37.6 average), senior Brandon LaMondra (44.6), freshman Glenn Richard (45.7), sophomore Dan Wempe (46.7) and senior Nick Feola (46.8).

Three starters are back from 2012's 1A-8 event including: low-medalist Arnett, LaMondra and Wempe.

Arnett, a two-time All-County selection, leads all Hernando County golfers in scoring average.

LaMondra, who missed six matches, has played well since returning.

"Getting Brandon (LaMondra) back has helped us," pointed out Coach Brown. "I really don't think we've played as consistent a game as I would have liked. Mentally, we've made some mistakes.

"Every tee box is different on every golf course and so are the pin placements," noted Brown on how critical the home-field edge might be. "And yes, we're more familiar with the course. If we get some wind, then the elements could play a big part.

"Right now, I'd say we could make up some shots on the par-5 third hole and par-3 fifth hole," explained Brown. "If the conditions don't get altered and you keep the ball in the fairway, I could see someone shoot anywhere between a 68-72.

"The trouble is if you don't keep your ball on the fairway, the course will play tougher."

On predicting a district champion, "It's a three-horse race with us, Springstead and Hernando," forecasted Brown. "Fivay (which arrives averaging 188 per nine holes) is only bringing four guys. That means no one can have a bad day and every one of their guys has to avoid blowing up on a hole - that's tough to do across 18 holes."

On the individual race, Brown said the 2A-13 coaches decided that all ties would be played out on the course - unlike the 2A-13 women who opted for a match of cards.

"Weeki Wachee's (Mike) Rampino plays a good all-round game and he could sneak in there with Jake (Arnett), (Springstead's) Brazon (Dixon) and (Hernando's) Cody (Montgomery) all fighting for medalist," said Brown.

Brown acknowledged he didn't have to sell this event to his kids.

"Districts are what our guys have been talking about since Day 1," noted Coach Brown. "You can't prepare for regionals until after districts. I really didn't have to sell districts to our guys.

"A district championship would be nice," added Brown. "The emphasis for each of our guys has to be - to be the top guy in their respective group."

The three-time All-County selection Montgomery is ranked second in scoring average behind Arnett at 38.5.

Montgomery and sophomore Pierce Kimbrough (43.8) are the two lone starters from the Leopards' fourth-place district finish in 2012.

This year's Leopards arrive 4-5 overall under first-year mentor Rodney Byrd.

Due to a bout of strep throat, Montgomery missed five matches.

"Having Cody back is huge," explained Byrd. "Now, we just have to do a better job of being mentally tough on the course. We've left too many shots out there."

On competing at Silverthorn, "We haven't played the back nine all year, but our kids are familiar with it," pointed out Byrd. "To me, the key on Monday is course management and staying out of trouble."

The remainder of the Leopard squad is expected to feature: freshman Zayne Vasquez (46.7), junior Bryan Mitko (46.8) and frosh Cameron Price (54.0).

Behind an up-and-down 6-5 season, the Springstead Eagles have totaled an encouraging seasonal-best 169 (over nine holes) three times across their past five matches.

Last fall, SHS placed in a three-way tie for fourth in the rugged 2A-5 Tourney at Ocala's Silver Springs Shores.

On Monday, SHS returns a county-high four starters from last year's district tourney featuring: senior Brazon Dixon (39.9), juniors Ben Cash (44.2) and Brendan Pfent (44.5), and senior Ryan O'Connell (46.9).

On forecasting the Eagles' efforts, second-year mentor Greg Odachowski said, "I think it's going to be a good district tournament. Brazon played well Wednesday (against Nature Coast), but as a team we all have to play well in order for us to turn in a score good enough to qualify for regions.

"I think there are other teams in our district that are better than us, so I am just hoping we can all shoot a low round and play well."

The Weeki Wachee Hornets (2-9) arrive with momentum after sweeping Thursday's tri-meet against Bishop McLaughlin and Seven Rivers Christian at GlenLakes.

The Hornets' clear-cut leader is the junior Rampino (42.3). Rampino was Weeki Wachee's lone regional qualifier last fall as the Hornets placed seventh in the nine-team 1A-8 Tourney.

Third-year Hornets mentor Craig Witte explained WWHS' current stance, saying, "The guys finished up the year on a positive note winning against Bishop McLaughlin and Seven Rivers.

"Morgan Koons (45) and Ben Doring (59) shot their season-low scores. Mike Rampino led the team with a 41. The guys have been playing with more confidence the past week and look to continue this next week."

Central, which finished winless in 2012 (0-10-0), closed out its 2013 season under first-year mentor Tyson Ellis at 3-6.

The Bears are paced by two players who did not play last season in the 2A-5 Tourney, where CHS finished 11th out of 11 teams: freshman Phoenix Morey (48.1) and junior Jans Tamayo (50.5).

Coach Ellis doesn't sugarcoat the task ahead, saying, "Hernando, Nature Coast and Springstead are all pretty evenly matched. Any one of those teams could easily win on Monday and maybe all three will advance to regionals."

On Central's goal, "Our goal is to put forth a good showing," Ellis said. "We'd love to break 400 - that's the goal. If our guys keep progressing in the offseason hopefully we can contend next year for a regional spot.

"We're going out there to attempt to minimize our mistakes and have a little fun," added Coach Ellis. "Out of seven teams, it would be something if we could finish in the top three."

At a Glance

What - Class 2A, District 13 Boys Golf Tournament.

Who - Seven teams are expected to be represented in this 18-hole event including: Central, Hernando, Nature Coast, Hudson, Fivay, Springstead and Weeki Wachee.

Where - Silverthorn Country Club

When - Monday beginning with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m.

At Stake - Top three teams and top three individuals not associated with those three teams will advance to the Oct. 22 2A-Region V Tournament at Fox Hollow in New Port Richey.

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