TAMPA — Her golf prodigiousness is as profound as her Greek heritage. If Claudia Rami got really hard-core about her golf game, observers say, her potential would be more sprawling than an Innisbrook par-5.
“When God started passing around golf talent,” former Carrollwood Day coach Rene Luaces said, “he bestowed a lot on her.”
As it stands, Rami, the daughter of two golf enthusiasts, brandishes her natural proficiency only seasonally. Though she’ll hit the range more regularly as the prep season nears, she recently estimated she hadn’t played an 18-hole round since May.
“I haven’t really practiced over the summer between traveling and everything,” said Rami, who plays tennis for CDS in the spring. “But I’m trying to start again this week.”
For now, Rami’s inherent talent is sufficient, or at least sufficient enough to catapult her to high school golf’s apex. Last fall, while still 14, this petite Athens native with curly brown hair proved she could literally step off a plane and qualify for state.
“I was hoping I was going to play good,” Rami recalled of the most clutch round of her life. “But I didn’t think I was, really.”
The only female player at Carrollwood Day in 2012, Rami, who competed for the boys team during the regular season, shot 78 at Emerald Greens to place third at the Class A, District 14 girls tournament. The finish earned her a spot in the Region 5 tournament.
Two days after districts, she was jet-bound for Greece, where she had to complete some visa-renewal paperwork. Her mother, Sabine Verveer, estimates the transatlantic trip — Tampa to London to Athens — took 15 hours. More if you count stopovers and baggage pickup.
She returned — same route, same length of time — on Sunday, Oct. 22, landing in Tampa around 6 p.m. Roughly 14 hours later, Rami was at The Eagles Golf Club in Odessa — a 5,375-yard course with a 72.1 rating — for the region tourney.
With no practice round but plenty of jet lag, she shot 8-over-par 80, earning one of the region’s two individual berths in the A state tournament. Rami remembers celebrating with some of her dad’s homemade Thai curry and sleep.
“I passed out,” she said.
A week later, at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Rami shot a two-day 158 to tie for 21st at the Class A tourney. Her 77 on Day 2 was a personal best. Luaces recalls one chip attempt from a patch of dirt — over a bunker — toward a long, thin green.
“She just took this big ol’ swing and hit a flop shot,” he said. “It landed on the fringe, took one bounce, had a bunch of spin on it...and stopped about 4 feet from the pin. The average person, there’s no way they’d keep it on the green.”
A postseason sequel in 2013 won’t require spanning an ocean. According to her mom, Rami, who moved to the United States with her family last summer, says a future visa renewal will require a mere flight to Canada. She’s not yet a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Only a naturalized swinger.
“It amazes me,” Luaces said.
More intriguing golfers/teams for 2013
Brooke Dalton, Bishop McLaughlin: Her strong freshman season included some gutsy par saves at the Class A, Region 3 meet to become the program’s first individual state qualifier. She’ll try to build on that this fall as a sophomore.
Fivay: The Falcons qualified for their first trip to state last fall, but the young team struggled when it got there. Four of those golfers — seniors Amber Mariano and Taylor Rhodes and juniors Samantha Dehner and Lauren Mariano — are back and ready to build on last year’s performance.
Haydyn Gibson, Osceola: She won the 2A-12 district tournament as a freshman and played on the boys’ team for most of the regular season. Gibson could be the most talented player in the area.
Madison Glennie, Countryside: The senior could have a break-out season for the Cougars. Her nine-hole average last season was close to 36, and she’s had a good summer.
Kelly Harris, Sunlake: Finished second at the district and conference tournaments as a freshman. Harris could become one of Pasco County’s top golfers for a Seahawks team that was solid last year.
Emmy Martin, Academy of the Holy Names: This senior TCU commitment seeks her third consecutive district/region title sweep this autumn. Her team, meantime, should contend for a top-10 finish at state.
Northside Christian: The Mustangs are usually young and usually talented. That is the case this season, though they are also thin. Their top two players, Alison Armstrong and Ashley Zagers, transferred to Cambridge Christian. That leaves sophomore Ryanne Jackson, freshman Natalie Chapman and eighth graders Shoshanna Van Loan and Alyssa Lamoureux. With no fifth player, those four must be on their game every tournament.
Emma Paschal, Clearwater Central Catholic: A state qualifier last year, Paschal should be just as good this season. Now a junior, she will be the Marauders’ top golfer and perhaps one of the best in Pinellas.
Ashley Richardson, Mitchell: The Mustangs’ lone senior is a three-time all-conference performer. She’s expected to lead a Mitchell team that’s won 12 consecutive SAC titles.
Terese Romeo, Freedom: The Patriots junior will strive for an encore to her surreal sophomore year, when she earned Class 2A district and region titles only two months after wrist surgery.
Steinbrenner: Coach Mark Mann returns four players from last season’s 2A district and region title team, though No. 1 player Kayla Poff has departed.
Sept. 14: CVSA Tournament, Cheval
Sept. 16: Outback Invitational, East Lake Woodlands
Sept. 19: Mustang Invitational, Seminole Lake CC
Sept. 30: Sebring Invitational
Oct. 7: Sunshine Athletic Conference
Oct. 10: Green Devil Invitational, Vinoy CC
Oct. 14-15: District tournaments
Oct. 21-22: Region tournaments
Oct. 29-30: State tournaments
Compiled by staff writers Matt Baker, Joey Knight and Rodney Page.