The Newsome boys golf team reached the state championship tournament for the second time in school history last season, finishing an impressive third.
And if the Wolves are to return in 2012, they certainly will be battle tested.
Newsome recently completed a two-week stretch in a pair of tournaments against some of the state's top competition. The Wolves won the State Top 10 Invite at Lakewood Ranch and most recently finished eighth at the Qdoba Tournament of Champions at Davenport last weekend.
"We've seen the best of the best," Newsome coach Jim Govreau said. "It's only going to make us better."
At the State Top 10 Invite, the Wolves slipped past host Lakewood Ranch by one shot. The Mustangs were 2A state champs last season.
"We shot a 285 but left quite a few strokes on the course," Govreau said. "Honestly, we could have been a few shots better."
Newsome's Tyler Bakich and St. Petersburg's Jack McGuire carded the individual low round of the day at 3-under 69. The Wolves' Colin Julian finished one stroke off the pace.
"Tyler has just been outstanding this season," Govreau said. "He really put in the work in the summer and has looked great. He has no holes in his game."
Newsome didn't fair nearly as well at the Qdoba Tournament, a field that featured the top four 2011 teams from both 1A and 2A. The Wolves finished eighth in the nine-team draw, but two of their players were battling the flu.
"One of our guys had to leave the tournament early and go home," Govreau said.
Govreau hopes this stretch of upper-level competition — they face Jesuit and Berkeley Prep Tuesday in a tri-match at Cheval Golf and Country Club — will prep Newsome for the upcoming district tournament at the end of the month.
"This is," Govreau said, "the best team we've ever had here. Hands down."
Besides Bakich, the Wolves are solid with Brian Allen and Colin Julian in the rotation, both of whom finished among the Top 17 individuals at the 2011 state tournament. Throw in John Michael Coultas and current No. 5 Kyle West and Newsome has plenty of reasons for optimism.
Allen, a senior, said he thinks the team's work during the summer has paid off.
"It almost blows my mind how much better everyone has gotten from last year," he said. "We just all got together every day over the summer and worked from 10 in the morning until six at night."
Allen has been No. 1 since his freshman year but the emergence of Bakich, a sophomore, has made the Wolves lineup unpredictable.
"Honestly, it really doesn't matter who is No. 1 or whatever because we all just push each other to get better," Allen said. "I've known Tyler since he was in fourth grade. We all just keep trying to improve and we're all friends. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.