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OCALA — It would have been difficult to have a stronger leader board, a more picturesque setting or more potential for golf drama than Wednesday’s Class A girls state tournament.
Orlando Windermere Prep, a first-year program made up mostly of academy-based players, held a one-shot lead over last year’s runnerup, Northside Christian, going into the second day at Ocala Golf Club.
All things considered, the Mustangs would rather be leading. But they gladly settled for being in contention to win for their first team title since 2004.
There was no time to waste, no margin for error. Wednesday’s final round was an intense tussle with a championship to be decided between two of the stronger programs in the state.
Northside’s second-day start was its stumbling block. The Mustangs got into a hole, partly because they could not get the ball into the hole, at least through the front nine. Playing catch up the rest of the way, Northside was unable to make up enough ground and lost to Windermere Prep by three strokes, 589-592.
It was a tough loss for the Mustangs, who came tantalizingly close to winning in the last go-round for departing seniors, A.J. Newell, Michelle Butler and Danielle Grace. This is the second straight season Northside has finished as the runnerup and the fourth straight season it has finished in the top three.
“I knew my girls were not going to fold,” Mustangs coach D.J. Jackson said. “They competed all tournament.”
Northside attacked the back nine with venom. A furious finish propelled the Mustangs’ five players up the leader board. Their drives were huge. Their approach shots were accurate. Their putting stroke was solid.
But it was not enough to put a dent into the score of Windermere Prep, which had two players, Shannon Aubert and Samantha Wagner, each shoot in the 60s.
“It’s tough because Windermere Prep has just one player from Florida,” Jackson said. “Yet we’re playing for the Florida state championship. Maybe they should rename the tournament.”
Northside’s A.J. Newell finished in a three-way tie with Jacksonville Bolles’ Irene Jung and Windermere’s Wagner to place third. Each had a two-day total of 141. Boca Raton’s Jan Chanpalangsri took medalist honors, shooting 68-69—137.
Newell not only hit the ball far, but her putting and plotting make her one of the most consistent players in the state. She was on top of her game Wednesday with a 68, which included five birdies.
“This course plays pretty well and I felt I was on the verge of playing great after the first day,” said Newell. “My game felt good, and I was so confident going into the second day.
“We were in position to win as a team, but we knew we had to beat a lot of good players. It’s a little disappointing knowing this is my last year of high school golf.”
Class A boys: Calvary Christian’s Lee McCoy finished in a two-way tie for sixth with 74-68—142 and teammate Taylor Hancock ended up in a four-way tie for 11th (74-70—144). Calvary Christian (613) finished 11th overall, 38 shots back of champion Cardinal Newman (281-294-—575; Northside was 13th (636).
Class 2A: St. Petersburg’s Shane Crutchfield and Dunedin’s Travis Huston were the county’s top girl and boy place winners. Crutchfield was 12th (77-78—155) and Huston finished in a six-way tie for 12th (74-73—147).
Countryside’s Madison Glennie was in a three-way tie for 29th among girls (84-86—170). St. Petersburg’s Jack Maguire tied four others for 22nd among the boys (75-74—149).
Photo by Jacqui Janetzko