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Ridgewood coach Gary Zimmerman had every reason to believe golfers other than the Rams sophomore Austin Padova would advance to next week's Class 2A, Region 4.
Padova advanced Tuesday after finishing with an 8-over-par-79 at Fox Hollow in Trinity.
It was surprising considering Padova's commitment to golf was not as strong in recent weeks. Instead of devoting practice time on the weekends, Padova was chasing a new hobby.
"He's getting more interested in girls," Zimmerman said. "Rather than practicing on the weekends he's spending time with girls than on the golf course, which is normal for his age."
Padova struggled toward the end of the regular season, which prompted more work with his father and a private coach. And when Padova hit a ball out of bounds on the first hole Tuesday to finish with a double bogey, he began to have his doubts.
"Jeff (Koos) was making fun of me for it," Padova said. "I had a double and it's like the second easiest hole on the course."
Two strengths ultimately played to his advantage on a windy day at Fox Hollow. First, Padova hit low trajectory drives that chewed through strong gusts. Padova shot 2-over-par 35 on the front nine, then "fell apart" with a 42 on the back.
"Austin is a normal low-ball hitter," Zimmerman said. "These other guys are crushing the ball. A lot of time they don't know how to adjust to a windy situation."
Second, Padova put together a strong short game. Zimmerman said Padova had just 27 putts Tuesday, an average of 1.5 strokes on the greens.
"He was doing a lot of three-putting," Zimmerman said of the regular season. "In conference and district he had none."
Padova was the lone Pasco County boys golfer to advance from Fox Hollow. He outlasted two-time Sunshine Athletic Conference champion Chaz Heinz and the rest of Mitchell team, which had gone undefeated in the regular season.
He even outlasted teammates Johnathan Kopsell and Koos.
"If you asked me the day before the most likely to advance would be John or Jeff," Zimmerman said. "Austin just hasn't been into golf the last few weeks. He hasn't practiced much and he wasn't into the golf season. But in district and conference he came alive."