OCALA — Turns out, Linzy Clark's left-handed pitching wedge contains as much leg room as it does loft.
On an overcast, windy day in rural north central Florida, Clark and his four East Lake teammates hopped on that wedge and essentially rode it to the upper tier of the leaderboard at the Class 2A state tournament.
Clark, a senior, executed two of the most memorable shots of Day 1 — birdie chip-ins on No. 6 and 12 — en route to 3-under 69 at Silver Springs Shores. That round, along with Jake Johnson's 74, helped lift the two-time defending region champs to a 304 total after 18 holes.
The chip-ins "were probably the key to my round," said Clark, three shots off the individual lead held by Vero Beach junior James Monnerville. "And I didn't hit any bad shots."
Entering today's final round, East Lake is six shots off the team lead and one off Pinellas County supremacy. Palm Harbor University, which needed a two-hole playoff at last week's region tournament to qualify for state, finished with 303.
Senior Matt Cote, who birdied three of his last four holes, led the Hurricanes with 2-under 70. Junior Christian Senger added 73, highlighted by a 12-foot downhill putt for birdie on the par-4 sixth hole. Subtract bogeys on his first two holes, and Cote was 4 under for the day. He birdied all four of the course's par-5s.
"I just kind of stayed focus (after the sluggish start)," said Cote, who won the district crown two weeks ago. "I knew that I could handle it and I knew that my team needed me to make sure I came out with a good score."
Cote wasn't the only one erratic from the outset. Clark was 1 over after three holes before nailing birdie on the par-4 No. 5. He made par the following hole before his breakthrough chip-in on No. 6. Similarly, St. Petersburg junior M.J. Maguire was 8 over after three holes — going out of bounds on each hole — before rallying for 79. Deduct his disastrous start, and Maguire was 1 under for the day.
OCALA — Shane Crutchfield stood on a practice green and kept putting and putting and putting. The St. Petersburg sophomore couldn't have been happier to be at her first state tournament. One of her first lessons at this level: competition is tough.
Crutchfield finished locked in a 15th-place tie after the first round. She shot 4-over 76. The final round at the Ocala Golf Club begins this morning.
Crutchfield's round got off to a rough start with bogey on the first hole.
"After that I calmed down and played really well until the back nine," she said. "I made four or five bogeys in a row, which was very disappointing. … I just wasn't hitting fairways and that made it harder to hit the greens."
Also playing in her first state tournament was Dunedin junior Justine Knox, who finished tied for 25th with 79.
Knox struggled to hit fairways, making things difficult on her approach. Knox felt confident entering the tournament after putting up scores of 66 and 71 at districts and regionals. "I was a little nervous," she said. "It's my first time at state. …You're going to have your bad rounds."
Izzy Gould, Times staff writer