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Citrus boys move on to state, thanks to Saltmarsh

Ethan Mitchell's hands shook as he scribbled in the ignominious number. It was tough to contain the emotions, but Citrus' No. 1 golfer did his best as he penciled in the 8 he had scored on the par-5 18th hole at World Woods Golf Club.

Yet, moments later, the frustration, anger and despair all but disappeared and Mitchell wrapped his arms around teammate Chris Saltmarsh as if he had just saved his life.

And, indeed, Saltmarsh did save the Hurricanes on this day.

While it is hard to separate the performance of one golfer in a team event, it was even harder to overlook what Saltmarsh had done. His 4-over-par 76 not only eased Mitchell's pain, but was crucial in Citrus claiming its first district title and a berth in Wednesday's Class 4A state tournament at Bent Tree Country Club in Sarasota.

"Everybody's score has an input in who wins, but some scores stick out," Saltmarsh said after the Hurricanes were declared Class 4A, District 6 champions, edging rival Lecanto 316-319. "I think every hole was crucial for me. But what really got me going was the par-3 (13th hole)."

Saltmarsh's chip-in after two poorly hit shots on the 13th proved to be the catalyst for his round. He parred the remaining five holes and finished in a tie for third among individuals. Mitchell and Cory Gibbs posted rounds of 79 and D.J. Swander completed Citrus' championship group with an 82.

Matt Nelan of third-place Eustis (330) took home medalist honors and will join the Hurricanes at the state tournament. After trailing Lecanto's Darren Nichter (79) by a stroke after nine holes, Nelan came alive on the back with four birdies and a bogey for a 71. Crystal River's Nilo Domingo, in one of the day's biggest surprises, came in second with a 75.

Lecanto put forth a great challenge, leading by three at the turn while giving the Hurricanes fits till the end. In fact, Mitchell was almost sure he had lost it for Citrus, but was buoyed greatly by Saltmarsh's score and the final tally.

Nichter and teammate Rob Rowthorn kept things close, especially Rowthorn, who steadied the Panthers with a final tally of 77.

6A-7: River Ridge done

SAN ANTONIO _ Knowing that three-time defending district champion Chamberlain would be there, as well as Plant and Gaither, Ron Spriggs was fully aware it would take a few scores in the 70s for his River Ridge team to have a chance at victory in Monday's Class 6A, District 7 boys golf tournament.

The Royal Knights turned in none, however. Despite a consistent effort _ all their scorers shot between 86 and 88 _ River Ridge was no match for either of the three aforementioned teams, particularly Chamberlain. The Chiefs had two players shoot in the 70s, including medalist Jordan Code, as they won going away with a score of 319 at the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club in San Antonio.

Plant finished second with a 329, and Gaither was third at 331. Chamberlain advances to next Wednesday's Class 6A state tournament for the fourth consecutive year.

Code, who shot 74, edged teammate Akio Sadakata (75) for medalist honors. Last year, Sadakata won the tournament and Code was second.

Chamberlain coach Frank George had his players out for three rounds of practice prior to the tournament, and it paid off as most players struggled on the difficult course. A host of players shot double-figure scores on holes, one River Ridge golfer played the final eight holes without a putter after breaking his (he putted with a 3-wood), one golfer had to withdraw because of heat exhaustion, and another threw up four times on the back nine.

The Royal Knights did manage to finish fourth with a 350 as Jason Stoss and Tommy Knoble carded 86s. The Rams were right behind them at 350, with Joe Hudson shooting an 84 to pace Ridgewood.

Springstead's Justin Lawson had the best score on the North Suncoast, finishing with an 83, and Patrick Moreland added an 88 for the Eagles, who had their best performance of the year with a 372, one stroke better than Gulf.

"This was really good for us," said coach Kathleen Long. "The kids showed a lot of heart out there."

_ JOHN C. COTEY

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