NEW TAMPA – The past couple of seasons the Freedom High School boys golf team has been one of the better teams in Hillsborough County. After posting back-to-back district runner-up finishes to Newsome, this year the Patriots are looking to have breakout season – all the way to the state tournament.
“This is it, this is our window right now,” said head coach Michael Passarelli. “The goal is to get to state.”
Freedom has a senior-laden squad that will be led by Jimmy Jones. Golf runs in the family for Jones. His mother, Dawn Coe-Jones, spent 25 years on the LGPA tour and won four tournaments. Passarelli thinks Jones could be the best golfer in the area.
“He is one of the best golfers in the district and on any given day he can be the best,” Passarelli said. “(Jones) is going to have a good year this year. He has matured a lot. All those little things that seemed to be his Achilles he has cured.”
Jones, who is committed to play for Florida Southern College next year, knows his strengths and weaknesses. According to Jones, he puts in up to 15 hours a week outside of Freedom’s practice to work on his game.
“My strength for sure has to be ball striking, like iron, wedges, etc.” Jones said. “My fault over the last six months has been my putting. And (my putting) is mainly what I’m working on when I’m practicing.”
Jones was one shot short last year to qualify individually for state. In order for Freedom to qualify for state as a team, it will need more than just Jones to step up. So far, junior Liam Doherty, who has been playing golf since he was 18 months old, looks to be Freedom’s number two man. Senior Charles Steward will also provide Freedom with depth.
“(Doherty) works really hard,” Passarelli said. “(Steward) has improved a lot. We go as he goes.”
While all the players work on their game on their own, they like the team environment found in high school play and welcome the change of pace it brings.
“It’s more fun. It’s only about three months out of the year we get to do the team stuff in golf,” Doherty said.
“There is a little more pressure on you when you are playing with a team because you don’t want to let your guys down. You always want to be on your best game,” Jones said.
The Patriots are in a new district this year that will feature Chamberlain, Hillsborough, King, Tampa Bay Tech, Wharton and Wiregrass Ranch. The district tournament will be played at the Temple Terrace Golf Club.
“A lot of our guys know (the Temple Terrace course) well. They will get out on their own and play it,” Passarelli said. “We are fortunate in that respect that a lot of our guys have played it.”
Freedom also knows that before it can make it to state, it has to get through the district tournament first.
“The biggest thing this year is getting them not look past anything and not assume anything,” Passarelli said.
“It will take a lot of focus from everyone on the team,” Doherty said. “We all have to give 100 percent effort and play every hole like it’s our last.”
“A 300 yard drive counts as much as that one-foot putt,” Jones said.