Region tournament play begins Monday, and several county golfers remain alive in their quest to make the state finals in Polk County. Here's a look at some of the players and teams making headlines this season. The top two teams and top two individuals advance to state.
The Northside dynasty
Northside Christian's girls will play for their fifth straight region title when the Mustangs tee off at Westchase Golf Club in Tampa.
They'll do so with an extremely young lineup that includes three sophomores and a seventh-grader.
Northside might not have the depth as in years past, but its top four, led by A.J. Newell, whom Northside coach D.J. Jackson says is the county's best golfer, is as strong as ever.
"This team is as good as any of the teams we've had in the past," said Jackson, in his eighth season as head coach. "All four of the girls are probably going to sign and play in college.
On paper, Berkeley Prep presents the biggest challenge. The Mustangs, however, own a couple victories over the Bucs this season.
"I feel pretty confident if we shoot a decent round that we should be okay," Jackson said.
Lonely at the top
Other than the four girls matches she was required to play to qualify for districts, Dunedin's Justine Knox spent a majority of the season competing for the Falcons boys team.
She heard the snickers from boys on opposing teams. Some in her playing group gave her the silent treatment. Others acted snooty.
"It doesn't bother me. I don't give them the time of day about it," she said. "I know I've worked just as hard. I just go out and try to play my best."
Knox, however, usually had the last laugh, routinely beating most of the golfers she played against, male or female, even while hitting from the men's tees.
The Dunedin sophomore follows in the footsteps of her brother Preston, who was the top golfer for four years at Dunedin. Preston, a sophomore at Warner Southern, never advanced to the state tournament, a stat Justine is all too familiar with.
"I didn't make it last year, and my brother never made it either," she said. "It would definitely be a big deal to me and my family to make it."
Calvary Christian's boys entered regionals last season as the prohibitive favorites and were promptly bounced by St. Petersburg Catholic and Berkeley Prep, denying the Warriors their first trip to state.
"Because of youth and inexperience, we didn't do well at regionals," said first-year coach Mike Baskovich, an assistant on last year's squad. "I think they went in overconfident thinking all they had to do was show up."
Baskovich's task this season is to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
"Our golfers are very confident but still humble and know that they've got work to do," he said. "It's never easy to get past regionals. This is something they really want to accomplish."
To advance, Calvary will have to defeat SPC on the Barons' home course. The Warriors' only loss in the regular season came against SPC at the Bayou Club.
|Class 2A, Region 4|
|Wentworth Golf Club (host: East Lake), Monday, 9:30 a.m.||Local teams competing: Dunedin and East Lake
Individual qualifier: Matt Cote (Palm Harbor University)
|Heritage Isles Country Club (host: Wharton), Monday, 9 a.m.||Local teams competing: East Lake and Clearwater
Individual qualifiers: Jasmine Wade (Palm Harbor University) and Justine Knox (Dunedin)
|Class 2A, Region 5|
|Stoneybrook Golf Club (host: Lakewood Ranch), Monday, 11 a.m.||Local teams competing: Seminole, Northeast and St. Petersburg
Individual qualifiers: Cody Bohnet (Dixie Hollins), Danny Grider (Dixie Hollins) and Keegan Oberer (Lakewood)
|Manatee County Golf Course (host: Manatee), Monday, noon||Local teams competing: St. Petersburg and Osceola|
|Class A, Region 5|
|The Bayou Club (host: St. Petersburg Catholic), Monday, 9:45 a.m.||Local teams competing: Calvary Christian, St. Petersburg Catholic and Shorecrest
Individual qualifiers: Travis Ralph (Indian Rocks Christian), Grant Horvath (Indian Rocks Christian) and Greg Barrett (Clearwater Central Catholic)
|Westchase Golf Club (host: Tampa Prep), Tuesday, 10 a.m.||Local team competing: Northside Christian
Individual qualifiers: Ryan Ashburn (Indian Rocks Christian), Allie Faller (Indian Rocks Christian) and Hayden Green (Shorecrest)