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DUNNELLON — Monday’s Class A, Region 3 boys golf tournament at Juliette Falls was so tightly packed, one ill-timed gust of wind could have made the difference between first and second place.
Or one bump in the green might have sent one team packing for the state tournament while another headed home for the year.
Fortunately for the Wesley Chapel boys, the breaks went in their favor.
Wesley Chapel and Saddlebrook advanced to the state finals with team scores of 319, edging third-place Crystal River (320) by a single shot.
Then on a playoff hole, Wesley Chapel’s senior-laden squad watched as two makeable, Saddlebrook putts slid centimeters past the hole to hand the Wildcats the region title.
“Being as how Saddlebrook practices five hours a day and they get out of school at 1 o’clock and they have great facilities and top-notch teachers, for us to beat them, it’s just awesome,” Wesley Chapel’s Jacob Fleck said.
Fleck spearheaded a solid afternoon of scoring for the Wildcats. The senior finished as the individual title winner after shooting 2-under-par 70 and edging Fivay’s Austin Padova (71) by a single stroke.
Fleck opened his round with birdie and chipped in on No. 3 for another. He shot 32 on the front nine and played steady over the final nine holes.
"I immediately got off to a great start, which was just so important in this type of tournament,” Fleck said. “I really just kept the ball in play all day and hit the ball so solidly. There was no way I was going to make a big number.”
Brandon Mumaw carded 81, Noah Fleck came into the clubhouse at 83 and Matt Wynne fired 85 for Wesley Chapel. On the playoff hole, Mumaw had the Wildcats’ only birdie and J.J. Amerman added a huge par putt that proved to be the difference.
“That putt was so key,” Wesley Chapel coach Alan Black said. “Our guys have had some great nine-hole rounds. We did well at conference, had around the same score, but not under this pressure, not in this venue. They just stepped up. They were on a mission today.”
Despite finishing second, Saddlebrook’s team of Wanguemert Torrent, Adam Chowdhari, Daniel Hori, Justin Bell and Alex Bensahel will also advance to next week’s state tournament in Ocala.
Padova qualified as an individual for the second straight season with his 1-under 71. Last season, Padova tied for 49th place at states after shooting 11 over.