For the second straight year, the Mitchell boys golf team got exactly what it wanted.
The Mustangs may not have finished where they wanted at the Outback Invitational they hosted Monday at East Lake Woodlands Country Club, but they did get a taste of some of the best competition the state has to offer, and did so over 18 holes.
"That's exactly why I do it — I want to get them in 18-hole shape, physically and mentally," said Mitchell coach Rick Hyatt, who is 69-8 in seven seasons with the team. "I wanted to get them in competition with players that are the best. It'll give them a good idea of where they're at and what they need to improve on."
Mitchell finished ninth in the 17-team field Monday, shooting a 319 that was 27 strokes off the lead shot by Orlando Windermere Prep (292) and 10 strokes off the top local team, Jesuit (309).
Last season, the Mustangs finished fifth out of 13 teams, but Hyatt points out that it was a stronger field Monday that included defending 2A team champion Bradenton Lakewood Ranch and Jesuit, which had a 10th-place finish at state, and Gaither's Jimmy Stranger, who has committed to Virginia and finished in the top 30 in the 2A state tournament in 2011.
Windermere Prep finished eighth as a team in the 1A state competition, while Sarasota Riverview was 10th in 2A, Winter Garden West Orange, which finished second Monday, was 11th in 2A state competition.
"It was a very strong field, if not the best we'll be a part of all year, and that'll just help down the road," Hyatt said. "I just don't think we've put it together yet, but we do have some time. Hopefully, we'll peak at the right time and that we're not (peaking) yet.
"I'm not panicking yet, but I'd like to be a little further along."
What hurt Mitchell the most Monday was putting, as the team didn't adapt to the fast greens at the 6,565-yard, par-72 course. Hyatt said the team will have to "hit the practice green to work on putting" and avoid "all the three-putts we had." But the team also needs to work on stamina, according to senior and 2011 state qualifier Dylan Strout.
"We're a great nine-hole team, probably one of the best nine-hole teams out there," said Strout, who shot 79 on Monday. "It's hard to explain why we're not good at 18 holes, but probably we're just tired and don't focus at the end."
The Outback was the second of four 18-hole tournaments Mitchell has scheduled for its deep pool of talented golfers, including sophomore Donnie Gabrelcik, who shot a team-best 75.
"Coach is doing this to better prepare us for the postseason, especially to help us advance from district to region to state," said Strout, who led the Mustangs to a 2A-11 district title in 2011. "There's a lot of room for work … I got really tired at the end, and I think we all did. We just have to work on finishing out a round and find a way to last longer and through 18 holes."