Pardon us as we briefly divert your attention from football to the fairway. Prep golf season is upon us, and a primer of the local landscape seems in order. The only Tigers in this field wear Jesuit blue, and while there are no McIlroys, there is a McQuilken. We’ll see your Amen Corner and raise you a Rocky Point. So grab a pencil and scorecard and follow along as we tee off the season with 18 need-to-know morsels.
1. Jesuit, again as deep as any team around, is seeking a sixth consecutive district title. Senior Brian Lanoue is the reigning Class A, District 14 champ — shooting 74 at Cheval — and was runnerup as a sophomore.
2. Plant girls standouts Laura Hendee and Kelsey Eisch return for their 12th season on the local links. Okay, we kid; it just seems they’ve been around forever. Hendee and Eisch finished first and fourth, respectively, at last year’s 2A, Region 4 tournament to propel Plant to the team title.
3. Did we mention the Panthers girls are seeking their 10th consecutive district crown this fall?
4. King’s boys, the 2A-District 10 champs last fall, could go eight players deep and contend for the title in the refurbished District 9. Coach Barrett Zebos says the No. 5 or 6 player could come in as low medalist on a given day. Additionally, reigning district champ Tyler Weed is back.
5. Durant senior Madison Opfer, expected to sign with Tulane in November, will seek her fourth consecutive top-10 individual state finish. Coach Dick Sheffield said Opfer will miss the first couple of matches to compete in a juniors tournament, but should play a majority of the rest of the prep season.
6. Newsome’s boys, last season’s 2A, Region 4 runnersup, return three of their top five scorers, and welcome promising freshman Tyler Bakich. Among the veterans: juniors Colin Julian and Brian Allen, both of whom earned top-10 individual region finishes.
7. Bakich’s mom, former LPGA star Colleen Walker, won nine times on that tour and has a victory on the Legends Tour.
8. Steinbrenner’s girls lost Times’ 2010 player of the year and FSU signee Alex Milan, but their top four other scorers from last season’s Class A, District 14 title team were underclassmen.
9. Aside from their veteran coach (Meg Jordan), Plant City’s girls lost essentially nothing from last season’s 2A, Region 4 runnerup team. The Raiders’ top four region scorers — seniors Belinda George, Kelsey Jensen and Shelby Johnson, and sophomore Kellyanne Hurst — all return.
10. George, a top-40 finisher at the 2A state tourney last fall, has committed to the University of North Florida, which leads us to …
11. Fellow UNF commitment Julia McQuilken, who burst onto the local scene last fall with 6-under-par 66 at Heritage Isles that won the 2A, District 11 tournament. McQuilken is among six experienced Riverview returners for girls coach Angela Slater.
12. Gaither junior Jimmy Stanger, fresh off the most prolific summer of his life, returns to lead the Cowboys. The Florida State Golf Association Boys Junior Championship winner for the 13-15 age group in 2010, Stanger tied for first in the 16-18 age group in July.
13. Stanger fell to Tequesta’s Hunter O’Mahony on the second playoff hole at the Boys Junior Championship at Vero Beach, but birdied three of the last four holes on the final day of the 54-hole event to force the playoff. His three-day regulation score at the 7,300-yard Quail Valley course: 4-under 212.
14. Plant senior Zach Johnson earned a top-25 finish at the Boys Junior Championship with a three-day 223. He and the other four top finishers from the Panthers team that placed third at districts last season return.
15. The FHSAA’s biannual district realignment produced no chaos, and only minor confusion. In Class 2A, districts 10 and 11 from the past two seasons now are 9 and 10, respectively. Steinbrenner, a Class A power the past two seasons, jumps to 2A-10.
16. Four of the top five scorers from Wharton’s 2010 boys 2A, Region 4 title-winning team were seniors.
17. The East Lake Invitational, the bay area’s first major boys golf tournament, is Sept. 13. Defending champ Jesuit was led last season by junior Chet Ghioto, who finished second in a field of 107.
18. Even Steinbrenner’s rivals must secretly be rooting for Warriors boys senior Trevor Joseph, who narrowly has missed earning an individual state berth each of the last two seasons. Last year, he fell in a playoff to teammate Jordan DeBonis.
Preseason top five
2. Plant City
4. Academy of the Holy Names