HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS — The 25-mph gusts whipping through the rolling hillsides of Lake County subsided by Day 2 of the Class 2A state golf tournament Wednesday. But the resilience of some of the bay area’s top competitors did not.
Flustered by Tuesday’s winds that made the Mission Inn Resort’s PGA-caliber courses play much longer than normal, a host of Hillsborough County standouts rebounded in conditions far more warm than windswept.
The result: one of the county’s most glorious collective performances, led by Laura Hendee.
A Plant senior who never seriously picked up a club until a few months before her freshman year, Hendee shot even-par 72 Wednesday to finish in a five-way tie for second.
Her two-day 149 was two strokes behind Boca Raton Spanish River’s Christina Ocampo, whom she’ll team with next season at the University of Miami.
“I feel great,” said Hendee, who hit 13 greens in regulation Wednesday and watched no fewer than three putts of 6 feet or less lip out. “Honestly, just coming from where I started in high school and how much I progressed over the last four years, it’s been great.”
Similarly, the Plant City senior trio of Kelsey Jensen, Belinda George and Shelby Johnson capped their careers with quantum improvements from Day 1 to help the Raiders finish a program-best fifth as a team with a two-day 673. Plant finished one stroke behind.
Jensen’s 76 and Johnson’s 77 were an improvement of 11 and 17 strokes, respectively, from Day 1; George’s 82 was a three-stroke upgrade. Only one other team, Plant, had two players (Hendee and senior Kelsey Eisch) shoot in the 70s Wednesday.
“I told the girls last night at dinner, ‘Today, just smile. Go out and enjoy,’ ” said Raiders coach Meg Jordan, who had “smile” written in orange capital letters on her left wrist. “I’m very proud of them. They put up the scores today that they’re supposed to.”
On the boys side, Newsome finished a program-best third with a 637 score, finding itself the leader in the clubhouse until the final handful of scores were posted. Freshman Tyler Bakich and junior Colin Julian shot 75 and 76, respectively, after scoring in the 80s Tuesday.
“Colin had the same round going (Tuesday) and just lost a little bit at the end,” coach Jim Govreau said. “He just stayed focused the entire time. And there was no way Tyler Bakich was shooting another 82. I knew that. His dad predicted that exact score (75) for him.”
Elsewhere, Durant senior and Tulane University commitment Madison Opfer earned her fourth consecutive top-10 state finish, shooting 78 to tie for ninth with a two-day 154.
Class A: Behind consecutive 78s from sophomore Emmy Martin, Holy Names finished eighth with a two-day total of 697 at Harbor Hills Country Club in Lady Lake. The bay area’s top finisher in the tournament, Martin tied for 17th.
In boys action, four of Jesuit’s five golfers improved their scores from Day 1 as the Tigers, in 15th after 18 holes, finished 10th with 627 at Tavares’ Deer Island. Senior Brian Lanoue’s even-par 72 gave him a two-day 149, tying him for 23rd.
Individual: Jimmy Stanger, Durant 79-80 159 (T-28th); Chase Levesque, Durant 82-80 162 (T-39th)
Team: Newsome 637 (third) Brian Allen 75-81 156, Colin Julian 80-76 156, Tyler Bakich 82-75 157, John Coultas 86-83 169
Individual: Madison Opfer, Durant 76-78 154 (T-ninth)
Team: Plant City 673 (fifth) Kelsey Jensen 87-76 163, Belinda George 85-82 167, Shelby Johnson 94-77 171, Kellyanne Hurst 86-86 172; Plant 674 (sixth) Laura Hendee 77-72 149, Kelsey Eisch 81-76 157, Kayla Poff 80-91 171, Caroline Bado 101-96 197
Team: Jesuit 627 (10th) Brian Lanoue 77-72 149, Joseph Trim 81-75 156, Chet Ghioto 86-74 160, Lucas Trim 87-77 164
Team: Academy of the Holy Names 697 (eighth) Emmy Martin 78-78 156, Casey Pluchino 89-81 170, Mariah Diaz 94-90 184, Christina Gerecke 91-96 187