Thursday, May 24, 2018

Golf: Tampa Bay high school preview

This year's high school golf season could be awfully similar to last year's golf season. Of the six 2013 Tampa Bay Times Players of the Year in the North Suncoast and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, five return. They are Donnie Gabrelcik (Mitchell), Kelly Harris (Sunlake), Tyler Bakich (Newsome), Terese Romeo (Freedom) and Blake Dyer (St. Petersburg). Only Countryside's Madison Glennie has graduated.

Four of those five are seniors (Harris is a junior) and all have the goal of returning to the state tournament.

Perhaps no player is more motivated than Romeo. She earned a spot in the Class 2A state tournament at the Mission Hills Golf Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills as a junior. After two rounds she was in a three-way tie for the individual championship, which included Glennie.

After an eight-hole playoff she settled for second behind Kadi Pallastrone of Sarasota Riverview.

"I still think about it a lot,'' Romeo said. "It really stung when it happened. But I realize now that I played hard and I never gave up. All I can do is try to get back into that position and see what happens.''

Romeo certainly has momentum. She was invited to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship in Seattle in July. In fact, she recorded a hole-in-one on the par 3, sixth hole during her first round. She hit a 4-hybrid from 170 yards. It was the first ever ace on the front nine in that tournament, and officials placed the ball in the USGA Hall of Fame.

"Really cool,'' Romeo said.

She has also fared well in other individual and team events leading up to the high school season.

"I'm really looking forward to this season,'' said Romeo, who is verbally committed to Mercer University. "I like playing high school golf. It's a lot different than junior golf. It's a team atmosphere and we have a lot of fun.''

Like Romeo, St. Petersburg's Dyer has his eyes on a state championship. Dyer played seven junior tournaments this summer, five out of state.

He would like to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Jack Maguire, who ended his senior year with a state title.

"Just being around Jack Maguire two years ago and seeing how he prepared and played really helped me,'' Dyer said. "He won the district tournament, then the regional tournament and then the state tournament. That's a perfect way to go out. That's what I'm hoping to do.''

Dyer recently committed to play at the University of Florida, where his dad also played. Also like Romeo, he said he can't wait to start his senior season.

"I love the high school season,'' Dyer said. "I take it very seriously. I just think it's really cool to play for your school. It's a short season so you want to be playing well from the beginning. I'm looking forward to it.''

Bakich, who has orally committed to Florida State, tied for second at the Class 3A state tournament and Newsome finished second overall. And Gabrelcik played well late in the season. He helped lead Mitchell to sixth place at the 2A tournament. Teammates Mike Spinger and Anthony Swinford both return. Both can shoot under par.

"Donnie really came up big for us late in the season,'' Mitchell coach Rick Hyatt said. "We've really got 1A, 1B and 1C players. And there's some good players behind them.''

Expect the Tampa Bay area to be well represented at this year's state tournament.