Hillsborough: State golf preview



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Mon. October 31, 2011 | Joey Knight | Email

Hillsborough: State golf preview

TAMPA — Compared with many of the peers they’ll encounter this week on prep golf’s biggest stage, Kelsey Eisch and Laura Hendee took up the sport late in life.

It just seems they’ve been around since the metal-spike era.

The novices of the 2008 Plant girls team are the nucleus of the 2011 squad, which tees off today at the Class 2A state tournament in Howey-in-the-Hills. Looking for a local favorite? The Panthers may be as solid a pick as any, courtesy of the two honors students with lofty GPAs and minimal pedigrees.

“They’re the reason we are where we are,” coach Vernon Korhn said.

Since arriving at Plant, Eisch (always in short sleeves) and Hendee (habitually in long, white sleeves) have evolved into the area’s most effective 1-2 punch, as complementary as a sand wedge and rake.

Hendee has claimed an individual district championship and two region crowns; Eisch has a district title of her own and three top-10 region finishes. With them toting the Panthers’ fortunes in their bags, Plant is 4-0 as a team in district tournaments.

“I never would’ve guessed it,” Eisch said.

Who could’ve? Four Septembers ago, one might have had better luck projecting the direction of a John Daly iron shot than the career trajectories of these two.

Well before converging at a tee box, their paths initially crossed near a batter’s box. As third-graders, Eisch and Hendee played softball together in the Tampa Bay Little League. From there, Eisch would go on to excel in tennis, earning a national age-group ranking.

Hendee would dabble in practically every other sport. Only at the behest of brothers, dads and moms did they try golf, and that was only a few months before entering high school.

Hendee, the youngest of three siblings, said her father saw something in her softball swing he thought would convey effectively on a fairway. Similarly, Eisch, a middle child with two brothers, started playing with her dad and siblings and discovered a passion for it.

“I liked the competition and always having to work harder,” Eisch said. “There’s always something to fix.”

Soon, both were competing in age-group tournaments, albeit to modest results. Eisch remembers shooting somewhere in the 40s in her first nine-hole prep match; Hendee recalls failing to eclipse 100 in an 18-hole Greater Tampa Junior Golf Association event at Apollo Beach the summer before ninth grade.

“I think I barely hit one off the tee on a par-3,” she said.

Months later, Eisch and Hendee shot 81 and 87, respectively, to help the Panthers win the Class 2A, District 10 tournament. Today, they’re year-round junkies who both train privately at Emerald Greens in Carrollwood. Korhn says he never has been around two girls “who work as hard and are as dedicated.”

Hendee, who will sign next week with the University of Miami, is the technician with the thunderous driver. Eisch, still considering between Boston College and Georgetown, is more deft around the green.

“I’m definitely more into the technical, analytical aspect of the game,” said Hendee, whose 2-over 74 won last week’s Region 3 tournament at Windermere Country Club by a stroke. “I’d say she’s a little more feel-oriented.”

Eisch, in turn, suggests Hendee, who won the District 9 title by two strokes at Temple Terrace, may be among the most dangerous players in this week’s field.

“When she’s on she’s on,” Eisch said, “and there’s nothing you can do to stop her.”

Call it momentum in tandem. At the district and region tournaments, Eisch was second and fourth, respectively.

“The first year I played No. 2 and she played No. 3 or 4,” Eisch said. “I was hoping to break 40 and she was hoping to shoot 45. It’s kind of crazy. …We’ve come a long way.”

State golf
Tuesday-Wednesday. Admission is free.
Class A Boys
Where: Deer Island Golf and Lake Club, Tavares
Local qualifiers: Jesuit (Chet Ghioto, JC Cirella, Lucas Trim, Brian Lanoue, Joseph Trim)

Class A Girls
Where: Harbor Hills Country Club, Lady Lake
Local qualifiers: Academy of the Holy Names (Allison Babin, Christina Gerecke, Mariah Diaz, Casey Pluchino, Emmy Martin)

Class 2A Boys
Where: at Mission Inn Resort and Club, Howey-in-the-Hills
Local individual qualifiers: Chase Levesque, Durant; Jimmy Stanger, Gaither
Local team qualifiers: Newsome (Brian Allen, John Coutlas, Dylan Foster, Tyler Bakich, Colin Julian)

Class 2A Girls
Where: at Mission Inn Resort and Club, Howey-in-the-Hills
Local individual qualifiers: Madison Opfer, Durant
Local team qualifiers: Plant (Kelsey Eisch, Laura Hendee, Ayanna Warner, Caroline Bado, Kayla Poff), Plant City (Lindsey Box, Shelby Johnson, Kelsey Jensen, Kellyanne Hurst, Belinda George)

Teams in post


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