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The Sunshine Athletic Conference tournament pits the best golfers from Pasco County against one another in an 18-hole competition that, when combined with each team’s regular-season point totals, produces the overall SAC champion. Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch enter the tournament tied with the most points (11) on the boys side; the Mustangs girls team was the regular-season conference champion after finishing undefeated. With the points doubled at the SAC tournament, the fight for the conference title is still undecided. Here’s how we see this year’s tournament unfolding.
Handicapping the field (odds-on favorite)
2-1 Dylan Larson, Wiregrass Ranch: Larson has been consistent all season and there’s no reason to expect a fall-off Monday.
5-2 Austin Padova, Fivay: On this course, Padova’s touch around the green could lead to a title.
5-2 Jon Kopsell, Land O’Lakes: Playing his best golf at the right time of year, Kopsell spearheaded the win over Mitchell.
3-1 Dylan Strout, Mitchell: Didn’t crack the Mustangs’ top four in their only loss to Land O’Lakes, but when he’s on he’s as good as any in the field.
5-1 Nick Stutt, Wiregrass Ranch: Another player making a late push, Stutt topped Larson in the Bulls’ final two conference matches.
5-1 Jacob Fleck, Wesley Chapel: Don’t be surprised to see his name at the top of the leaderboard.
3-1 The field: With golfers like Mitchell’s Isaac Schaefer and Dominick Dithmer, Land O’Lakes’ Robbie Nieman, Brandon Mumaw from Wesley Chapel and Shayne Grubb from Gulf, the field could be the smart play.
2-1 Rebecca Van Etten, Mitchell: Smooth swinging junior, who placed sixth at regionals last year, has been the conference leader all season.
4-1 Kellianne May, Pasco: Second at districts and ninth at regionals as a sophomore a year ago, May is an experienced contender.
6-1 Emma Fivecoat, Mitchell: Another Mustang with big-match experience, Fivecoat was Mitchell’s top golfer in its final match.
6-1 Tiffany Bahr, Zephyrhills: Bahr has the talent and consistency to make a serious title run.
8-1 Rachel Palenik, Sunlake: With Palenik in the mix, the top five contenders are juniors.
15-1 The field: Players like Wesley Chapel’s Hana Lee and Zephyrhills’ Megan Huppert could challenge, but the winner will likely come from the top five.
Three to win
1. Mitchell: A week ago, Mitchell was 10-0 and looked like a lock for the tournament win. But after a 14-point loss to Land O’Lakes on Tuesday, we’re not so sure. Was that a hiccup or a harbinger?
2. Wiregrass Ranch: The defending SAC tournament champion, the Bulls have the depth to repeat.
3. Land O’Lakes: Jesse Boger missed time this season with a sore wrist, but his return gives the Gators a foursome as strong as anybody’s.
1. Mitchell: The Mustangs have won this tournament so many consecutive times it might as well be renamed the Mitchell Invitational.
2. Zephyrhills: The Bulldogs gave Mitchell its sternest test of the regular season, but will have to play their most consistent match of the season to defeat the Mustangs.
3. Pasco: Pirates top golfer May needs help from her teammates if Pasco is to remain in contention.
When: Monday, 11 a.m. tee-off (boys); Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. tee-off (girls)
Boys: Seven Springs Golf and Country Club
The par-72 Champion Course is a thinking golfer’s course. Narrow fairways and water on roughly half the holes means accuracy will be more important than power. Don’t expect a long drive competition. Most will keep their Big Bertha’s in the bag.
Girls: The Groves Golf and Country Club
Water and conservation areas bordering both sides of most fairways make this course unbearable for anyone with a hook or slice. Designed by former PGA Tour professional and NBC commentator Gary Koch, The Groves has just one par 5 (375 yards) and plays a shade over 4,000 yards. Par is 65.