Sunday, June 24, 2018

18 holes or bust for Clearwater Central Catholic's golf team

With a team of three freshmen and no seniors, Clearwater Central Catholic didn't know what to expect once last year's postseason tournaments rolled around. The Marauders advanced to the Class A state tournament at Howey-in-the-Hills, where they finished seventh in the 16-team field.

All five starters are back this season, and the team has shown signs of being a state championship contender.

• The Marauders have wins at the East Lake Invitational at Lansbrook Golf Club and the Outback Invitational at East Lake Woodlands.

• They finished fourth in the Green Devil Invitational at the Vinoy Country Club.

• On Monday, they nabbed a third-place finish at the Maverick Invitational in Fort Lauderdale.

All of those tournaments? 18 holes. And there's more good competition to come.

This weekend they host an invitational at Belleair Country Club. Then they're at the prestigious Honda Classic High School Invitational at PGA National Spa and Resort in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 13-14. The 36-hole tournament features some of the best teams in the state, including defending Class 2A state champ American Heritage and Class A state champ Windermere Prep.

If the Marauders don't do well in the postseason, it won't be from a lack of preparation. They play more 18-hole tournaments than any other local team.

"That's the plan," said coach Tony Pasquine. "You see a lot of these teams play nine-hole matches and when they get to districts and regionals they are not physically capable of walking 18 holes and putting together a good round. The goal for us is to always play in four or more of the 18-hole tournaments to get ready."

The five-man team starts with seniors Clark Lea and Davis Harrison. Harrison and the Marauders had a bit of a scare in early September, He separated his right shoulder while he and his father were putting the clubs away in preparation for Hurricane Irma.

"I was kind of shocked," Harrison said. "My first instinct was to get (the shoulder) to go back in, which it did. It could have been a lot worse."

He couldn't play golf for three weeks. Harrison worked his way back by chipping and putting. He eventually took full swings and came back to play in the Green Devil Invitational, where he shot 78. On Monday, he finished third overall in Fort Lauderdale with even-par 72.

"It gives me a lot of confidence," Harrison said.

Lea has been consistent all season. He shot 69 at the East Lake Invitational to win low individual. His brother, sophomore Hunter Lea, can shoot in the upper 70s consistently.

Sophomore Thomas Salanito won some tournaments as a freshman and has been just as good this season. And sophomore Jacob Ezell usually plays the No. 5 spot and hovers around the low 80s.

With scores like that, CCC is sure to earn another spot at state. Last season they shot a two-day team score of 649, 33 shots behind Windermere Prep, which started four seniors.

"We play a bunch of different teams, and that helps," Clark Lea said. "It helps us see that we are better than we think we are."

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