Starting today, 13 local golfers embark on a quest to become Hillsborough County's first individual state champion in four years, while two teams try to bring home the area's first state title plaque since 2000. The state finals, a two-day, 36-hole event, begin this morning at various courses in Marion County. Of the local competitors, only three are seniors. And only five have reached this level previously. Here's a closer look at each of the three tournaments involving a local player.
Where: Silver Springs Shores, The Country Club, Ocala
Course facts: Par-72, 6,706 yards
Local individual competitor: Paul Demick, Jr., Wharton
At a glance: You can bet Demick, who shot 1-under 70 to win last week's Region 4 tourney at Summerfield, will prepare meticulously for his state debut. Last week, he had a notebook, complete with yardages and a self-drawn sketch of each hole, of Summerfield's entire course. Among his competitors in this field is Lake Mary senior Hojin Kang, the 2008 state runnerup.
Where: Ocala Golf Club, Ocala
Course facts: Par-72, 5,329 yards
Local team competitor: Durant (Madison Opfer, So.; Erika Wardzinski, Jr.; Kerrie Reinhardt, Jr.; Lauren Hirschey, Sr.; Olivia Higgins, So.)
Local individual competitor: Kelsey Gibson, Sr., King
At a glance: Four Cougars — Opfer, Wardzinski, Reinhardt and Hirschey — competed at state last season. Opfer, the Region 4 champion, finished eighth individually in 2008, but five of the seven who placed ahead of her were seniors. Lake Mary's Jessica Schall, sixth last year, is back after winning a region title last week.
Where: Golden Hills Golf & Turf Club, Ocala
Course facts: Par-72, 5,273 yards
Local team competitor: Academy of the Holy Names (Emmy Martin, eighth grade; Casey Pluchino, eighth grade; Annie Milewski, Sr.; Mariah Diaz, eighth grade; Christina Gerecke, Fr.)
Local individual competitor: Alex Milan, Jr., Steinbrenner
At a glance: Milan finished ninth at last season's 2A state tournament. AHN, which finished 48 strokes behind Northside at the Region 5 tourney, is a long shot. Then again, considering the average age of the Jaguars players, they could be a dynasty in the making.
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org