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WESLEY CHAPEL — When four tee shots on the first hole splashed into the water and two more drowned on the second, it became clear that the boys golf programs at Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch are rebuilding.
Gone are the Bulls’ nine seniors from last year’s district champion, and so are three all-area players from the Wildcats. In their place are a few standouts and a handful of players who are just learning the game.
“Absolutely they’re improving as the season progresses,” Wiregrass coach Mike Horrigan said after his team’s 172-185 win Tuesday at Lexington Oaks Golf Course. “They’re scoring in the 40s now instead of the 50s and 60s.”
Wiregrass Ranch (5-4) weathered a soggy course and its rival Wildcats (3-6) to stay above .500 and make strides as a team after a rough start.
In years past, a tee shot gone astray or a hook into a puddle next to a shred of snakeskin — as Logan Horrigan experienced Tuesday — could result in a thrown-away round because the Bulls knew their teammates could pick up the slack. But this year’s team lacks the depth to recover.
“These guys know they can’t do that,” Mike Horrigan said. “They’re playing without a safety net.”
The first-year coach’s son rebounded from the hook on No. 4 and punched his next shot to the green to salvage the hole. Logan Horrigan drove well the rest of the match and led all players with 1-over 37.
The rest of the Bulls are getting better, too. Matt Prenderville shot 40, and Jeff Hawes overcame a tee shot into the mud to scratch out par on No. 9 and finish 4 over.
“I’m hoping by conference play we can make a little dent and surprise them,” Mike Horrigan said.
Wesley Chapel’s brightest days are ahead. Its top two performers Tuesday were freshman Corey Mumaw (6-over 42) and sophomore Noah Fleck (8-over 44).
Mumaw said he feels little pressure in trying to lead a team in his first year of high school.
“Just try my best,” said Mumaw, “and just try not to get mad.”