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Citrus golfers huge favorites

The fickle nature of the sport keeps Citrus coach Chris Richardson honest. Yet it only barely dampens the spirit of optimism that surrounds this year's Hurricanes boys golf team.

Never before has the outlook been so bright. Never before has Richardson been able to field such a talented and deep squad. And never before has a district championship _ and a resulting trip to the state championships _ been so possible.

"I've got five guys that could medal," Richardson said, speculating about his possibilities at Monday's Class 4A, District 7 championship at World Woods. "I feel real good about it. But, just because we can win it doesn't mean we will. This is golf."

And because of that, Richardson will take nothing for granted. Never mind that his team has lost only once this year (and at the same time posted a score six strokes better than its 1997 conference-championship season). And never mind that Richardson has a team with seven players capable of scoring lower than 40.

"I feel we have a legitimate shot at winning it," Richardson said. "But are we the favorites? Probably, but we haven't played Eustis, and I hear they have a very good team. And then there's Lecanto. When they get their top five out there, they are very formidable. I'd say there are three legitimate contenders."

Many of Richardson's compatriots would beg to differ. Few have a golfer who can match Ethan Mitchell, who waltzed to the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference title with a 2-over 74 at Lakeside Country Club, and none has the depth. Mitchell's closest competitor last Monday was teammate Chris Saltmarsh (76), and three more teammates _ D.J. Swander (80), Cory Gibbs (81) and Paul Xenophon (82) _ managed to crack the top seven.

Perhaps Eustis, with its formidable team of Matt Nelan and Aaron Borders, has the best shot at beating the Hurricanes. Or maybe Lecanto, which finished second at the GCAC meet behind the fourth-place finish of Andy Adolfsson (78) and the seventh-place finish of Darren Nichter (82).

In either case, it will be an uphill battle.

"I think Citrus is definitely the favorite," Lecanto coach Chuck Holestein said. "It will probably come down to Citrus and Eustis. But I'm not sure anyone can beat Citrus. Those guys can play."