If the Mitchell boys’ team golfs well the next two days at Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, look for them at a local Beef O’Brady’s.
“I don’t know if they’ll be able to wait two hours to make it back,” coach Rick Hyatt said with a laugh. “We might have to find a local one.”
It’s become tradition for the boys to head to the restaurant if they shoot a low score. They’ve eaten at the restaurant four or five times to reward themselves for reaching a goal. This year has given them plenty of opportunities to celebrate.
They’re about to clean me out,” said Hyatt, smiling.
Mitchell has long been a North Suncoast powerhouse in golf, but this is the first year the boys and girls teams have made the state tournament together.
Hyatt said though the teams will play on different courses, it’s exciting for the players to know their classmates are in the same city, playing for a state title.
This is the second time the girls have journeyed to state, the last time in 2009. But this is the first time the boys have made it this far.
“Every year we’ve been on the cusp of making it, but we’ve never been able to put it together,” Hyatt said.
The coach said he knew, with 12 golfers coming back, that this team could fare well.
“But only if they played up to their potential,” he added. “And they have.”
The Mustangs won their first region championship when Donnie Gabrelcik shot 70 at Fox Hollow. He birdied the final hole, his fifth of the day. Gabrelcik clinched individual medalist honors and helped his team to a winning score of 303, four shots better than runnerup Jesuit. District medalist Anthony Swinford, Mike Springer and Max Sabo helped boost Mitchell to the win.
The Mustangs also won their third Sunshine Athletic Conference title this year, right alongside the girls, who made it 13 straight.
Hyatt points to this team’s attitude as instrumental to its success. It’s easy for players to become competitive in an individual sport like golf, but the boys have “been gentlemen,” he said, encouraging each other despite having to compete against each other.
Their power comes from their depth, Hyatt said. He called it both a blessing and a curse that he has so many talented players, since he can play whoever will perform best in a given set of circumstances.
That depth could prove especially valuable Tuesday and Wednesday. Hyatt said his team was surprised by the course when they played practice rounds Monday. He called it “unique and challenging,” with elevation changes the team is not used to after playing on flat Florida courses.
Despite this, Hyatt said his team peaked at the end of the season, improving over several months to reach this point.
“I still think we have a little more left to show,” he said.
Where: Mission Inn Resort and Club, Howey-in-the-Hills (El Campeon)
Local qualifiers: Mitchell, Springstead’s Brazon Dixon, Sunlake’s Jake Roberts
Where: Mission Inn Resort and Club (Las Colinas), Howey-in-the-Hills
Local qualifiers: Mitchell, Land O’Lakes, Sunlake’s Kelly Harris, Springstead’s Kylie Van Meter
Where: Deer Island Golf and Lake Club, Tavares
Local qualifiers: Saddlebrook
Mary Kenney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @maryknews.