TAMPA — As the 2014 high school golf season begins, The Tampa Tribune offers up its refresher course on the top links action you can expect this season. Youth was the name of the game a season ago, and a number of state tournament returners highlight this season’s action. Take a look at some things to watch out for this season.
The Boys and Girls Golfers of the Year from 2013 return, and both have high expectations for their senior seasons after each finished second at the Class 3A state tournament. Newsome’s Tyler Bakich, a Florida State commit, finished tied for second in Ocala after winning a district title and finishing as the runner-up at the region tournament. Freedom’s Terese Romeo finished in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard at the 3A tournament, finishing as the runner-up after eight playoff holes. Romeo, who committed to Mercer in May, was the district and region tournament medalist, while also helping the Patriots to a 10th-place team finish. Romeo played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in Dupont, Washington in July, where she carded a hole-in-one on the 171-yard, par-3, sixth hole.
Bakich and Romeo aren’t the only district champions back for 2014. Chamberlain’s Norman Black outlasted Freedom’s Liam Doherty at Temple Terrace in the 3A-10 tourney, but Doherty took the region title a week later. Steinbrenner’s Claire Becker shot a 77 to win the district crown and will lead a talented Warriors team this season. Plant’s Patrick Mills, Jesuit’s Matt Ruel, Tampa Catholic’s Nilo Sanchez, Cambridge Christian’s Ashley Zagers and Robinson’s Karam Paul all were underclass district winners.
Newsome returns four of its five starters from last season’s second-place Class 3A state finish. Bakich is the clear clubhouse leader, but senior Kyle West and juniors Mark Nauert and Andrew Wally return with experience and are hungry to challenge for a team state title.
The Steinbrenner girls team has had a lot of success in its first six seasons, and with Becker’s district title and a sixth-place team finish, the Warriors have a talented group of returning starters. Sophomore Alyssa Serino finished tied after regulation with Becker at the 3A-11 district tournament, and along with senior Kelsey Holbert, the Warriors’ top returners all finished in the top 40 at last year’s state tourney.
Tampa Catholic’s boys team has reached the state tournament the past two seasons. The Crusaders return their top two players in seniors Sanchez and Ryan Williams. The Crusaders’ girls team returns sophomore Lindsey Gonzalez after a runner-up finish at the district final and a fifth-place region finish.
Plant returns four starters from last season’s 10th-place state tournament team and adds some new faces to the fold, as well. Senior Patrick Mills was the Class 3A-District 11 champion, while sophomores Chris Kern and Robby Eisch had great rounds at the region and state tournament, including a top-30 finish for Eisch in Ocala. Junior Aaron Tobin rounds out the returners, while incoming freshman Jackson Suber shot a low round of 39 in the Panthers’ first match of the season on Tuesday.
Last season’s district medalist and current junior Matt Ruel won by seven strokes a season ago, before finishing 24th overall at the Class 2A state tournament and helping the Tigers to a fourth-place finish. The Tigers also return seniors Kurt Sierra and Alec Murawski.
The Class 3A-District 13 girls golf race will be an exciting one, as defending champions Plant City and 2013 runner-up Durant each will have strong teams. The Raiders will have to replace last year’s individual medalist, Kellyanne Hurst, but they have strong returners in Kendall Johnson and Kaylee McIntosh. Durant returns senior Tori Higgins, who finished third at districts and sixth at the region tournament, along with senior Krista Reinhardt.
Here are a few more area golfers to watch. Newsome senior Meghna Patel was the district runner-up last season, before she finished fifth at the region tournament and tied for 16th place at the 3A state tournament. … Class 3A-District 10 returns its top three finishers, as Black won in playoff holes by topping Freedom’s Liam Doherty. However, the Patriots senior answered the following week, taking the region tourney in playoff holes, helping Freedom reach state. This season’s tournament is scheduled to again take place at Temple Terrace, the home course of last year’s third-place finisher, King’s Ajani Liggins, who finished one stroke behind Black and Doherty in 2013. Liggins has been the Lions’ leader for three seasons. … Cambridge Christian junior Allison Armstrong shot 76 at the district tournament and finished tied for 34th at the 1A state tournament.
Coaches, call in match scores after 7 p.m. to (813) 259-7655 and follow correspondent Jarrett Guthrie on Twitter: @JGuthrieTAMPA