CLEARWATER — Plant took some of the drama out of the Class 3A, Region 4 tournament Monday at Feather Sound. The Panthers had three golfers in the top 10 and finished with 296 to win and advance to the state tournament Nov. 5-6 at the Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills.
There was plenty of drama for the second and final team spot. With only No. 1 golfer — Liam Doherty — still on the course, Freedom needed birdie from him to beat Countryside or par to force a playoff.
Doherty calmly sank a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole to give Freedom a 305-306 edge over the Cougars.
“I had no idea,” Doherty said. “The goal is to make a birdie anyway, but I didn’t know we needed it to advance. It’s not going to sink in until maybe later tonight or tomorrow. When I heard the boys roar I knew something good happened.”
To make things even more special, Doherty shot 2-under 70 and tied Plant’s Chris Kern as top individual. He then won on the second playoff hole to take medalist honors.
Aside from the top two teams advancing, the top two individuals not on advancing teams also move on. Palm Harbor University’s Sean Fromme and Countryside’s Jay Dixon shot even-par 72 to advance.
“I thought maybe a 74 or better would do it so I’m happy with a 72,” Dixon said. “I hit 15 greens in regulation and really didn’t make many putts.”
Fromme had one of the earlier tee times and had to wait for other scores to come in before he found out he was moving on.
“It was stressful,” he said. “I wasn’t sure a 72 would be good enough. I had four birdies and four bogeys so it was kind of up and down.”
Plant had no such stress. All four scores were in the 70s. Aside from Kern, Patrick Mills shot 73, Robby Eisch added 75 and Todd Sessums shot 78.
“If we shot under 300 we thought we’d be going to states,” said Kern, a freshman. “For me, to shoot 70 today, that ties my career low, and that’s with a three-putt bogey on 17. It was a great round overall.”
Freedom also had four rounds in the 70s, including Jimmy Jones (77) and Charles Seward and Chandler Howe (79).
3A-5 boys: Wolves return to state a fourth straight year
Newsome earned its fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament with a runnerup finish at the Venetian Golf and River Club.
The Wolves finished with a four-player score of 291 — seven strokes behind champion Lakewood Ranch and two ahead of third-place Sarasota Riverview.
Junior Tyler Bakich — who placed fourth at state last year — had the low round for Newsome with 68. That was three strokes behind Lakewood Ranch’s Ramsey Touchberry, who shot a course-record 65. The Wolves’ John Coultas shot 70, followed by teammates Mark Nauert (75) and Kyle West (78).
Durant freshman Jacob Penny is also advancing to state after shooting 69 to qualify as an individual.
3A-5 girls: Newsome's Patel advances
Newsome junior Meghna Patel was the lone area qualifier out of the girls tournament at the Capri Isles Golf Club in Venice.
She carded 78 to finish fifth overall but second among individuals. That was good enough to advance to next week’s state tournament.
Five other Hillsborough County competitors placed in the top 12 overall, led by Durant junior Tori Higgins, who finished sixth with 80.
Plant City senior Kellyanne Hurst tied for seventh (82) — one stroke ahead of sophomore teammate Kendall Johnson.
East Bay junior Natthakran Siribun and Bloomingdale junior Elizabeth Jackson each finished with 85.
Venice (334) and Sarasota Riverview (349) qualified for state as teams.
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.