Eight of the county's finest male linksters face a do-or-die situation in regionals this week.
Only the top two teams and top two individuals not associated with those teams will advance to the 82nd FHSAA Finals set for Oct. 30-31 in Lake County.
The county's premier player – Springstead senior Ryan Nicoll – is Hernando County's lone representative in the loaded Class 2A, Region II Tournament beginning at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Ocala Golf Club.
Nicoll, who has led the county in scoring over the past two seasons, is coming in red hot. He arrives fresh off his first-ever district championship last week at The Golf Club at Silver Springs Shore in Ocala.
Nicoll edged Lecanto's Drew Cooke by one shot in last week's 2A-5 18-hole event, 73-74, to earn medalist honors.
The four-year Eagle starter is a three-time All-County selection. He arrives averaging a blistering 36.5 shots per nine holes.
Like everyone else, Nicoll understands the key to surviving the "Region of Doom" is shooting par or less.
Looking back at last year's two top teams – Ponte Vedra and Bartram Trail – both teams combined to return 9-of-10 golfers this year.
How rugged is this region?
Ponte Vedra-Nease shot a combined 301 in the 2A-4 Tourney at Eagle Landing Golf Club and finished third behind Ponte Vedra (289) and Bartram Trail (293).
First-year Springstead skipper Greg Odachowski, who was out of town on a school field trip during districts, is back and will accompany Nicoll to regionals.
"Ryan doesn't have to do anything extraordinary," admitted Odachowski. "He just needs to do what he's done all season. He's got to keep it together. To get to states he's going to have to shoot or break par."
On Nicoll's success, Odachowski sounds like a broken record.
"His swing is amazing and he trusts his swing. He's got the confidence to do this (reach states)," the coach said.
"I just hope his putting stays consistent. At this stage it's all about staying focused on what he needs to do."
On Tuesday, 1A-8 runner-up Nature Coast and Cody Montgomery of Hernando will tangle with some of the area's elite in the 1A-III Tournament at Wesley Chapel's Saddlebrook Resort.
Montgomery is making his third straight regional appearance. He's attempting to become the first Hernando County male linkster to reach states since Hernando's Fred Farmer in 2000.
As a freshman, Montgomery carded an 18-hole 77 at Juliette Falls and last year he totaled an 82 at Golden Hills Golf and Turf in Ocala.
This time, the Leopard captain arrives averaging 38.2 strokes per nine holds – which ranks second in the county only behind Nicoll. Montgomery fired a 3-over-par 37-38—75 total at The Dunes in Weeki Wachee to qualify for regionals.
Standing in Montgomery's way are three golf aircraft carriers, including: defending regional champ Trinity Catholic of Ocala, host Saddlebrook Prep and four-time defending district champion Crystal River.
According to second-year Leopard mentor Kevin Magilligan, as soon as 1A-8 Tourney was over, the two-time All-County selection began focusing on regionals.
"At this point, Cody doesn't have to worry about carrying the others," pointed out Magilligan. "I still don't think he's where he was at last year. But he's getting closer."
Montgomery didn't pick up a club this summer due to his father passing away.
On the improvement in his game, "His putting has improved a lot," said Magilligan. "The key is for him to stay in the fairway; when he does that – look out."
NCT's eighth-year mentor Tom Brown is a pragmatist and a realist on his team's chances of advancing Tuesday.
The Sharks, who went 6-9-0 in the regular season, were solved by the Crystal River Pirates three times by 20, 31, and 65 shots (over 18 holes).
In the face-to-face meeting with Saddlebrook at its home course, the Sharks lost by 83 shots, 295-378.
"Realistically, we have to improve by 35-40 shots just to have a chance," shrugged Coach Brown, whose only other team at regionals was in 2006 (placed fourth out of nine teams). "We want to go and represent our school and our program as best we can. The simple fact is there are a ton of good golfers in Florida and a bunch of them will be at Saddlebrook."
What would it take for the Sharks to advance?
"It would take a sub-310 score and that might not be enough," suggested Brown. "We'll use this (meet) as a springboard for next year."
Nature Coast will be represented by sophomore Jake Arnett (39.1 nine-hole average), senior Mike DeMaria (44.3), junior Joe Powanda (44.8), freshman Dan Wempe (51.7) and either junior Brandon LaMondra (53.6) or junior Erik Carlson (54.3).
Arnett, a 2011 All-County selection, arrives red hot following his initial district title at The Dunes with a one-under-par 71.
Weeki Wachee sophomore Michael Rampino rounds out the Hernando County contingency at regionals.
Last year, Rampino averaged a team-best 47.7. This season, he's shaved his average nearly four strokes to 43.8.