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Gator girls triple golf victories; boys rebuild

(ran PAS edition)

Neither of Land O'Lakes High's golf teams contended for post-season tournaments this year. And while the boys struggled to overcome the loss of the school's best golfer, the girls set a record for most wins.

The Gator girls won three matches in their third season and nearly made it four, coming within one stroke of defeating Pasco in a midseason meeting. The Gators defeated Ridgewood, Hudson and Dunedin (by forfeit). They had won once in each of their first two seasons.

"It's still a new team, so it takes a while to get it going," Land O'Lakes coach Joan Kerwin said.

The difference, according to Kerwin, is that Land O'Lakes can now field a lineup of golfers who want to improve rather than girls who try golf as something different to do.

"The girls scored better and we played better," Kerwin said of the team's best season.

Top returners Christy Lane and Melissa Read made significant strides. Lane, a junior who has played on all three Gators teams, dropped her average by two strokes to 51. Read, a sophomore who shot 67 last season, carried a 61 average.

Sophomore Katie Daniels averaged 62 in her first year playing golf.

"She turned out to be my surprise golfer," Kerwin said of Daniels, whose high was a 71 and low was a 57.

Freshman Stephanie Lane (63) and sophomore Jenna Evans (66) rounded out the team.

BLUE WITHOUT GREEN: Losing Darin Green proved to be devastating for the Land O'Lakes boys team, which dropped from a nine-win season in 1997 to just two wins this year.

Green, a two-time Sunshine Athletic Conference Golfer of the Year, and steady Jeff Hagman graduated in 1997.

"You lose the best golfer in the area for the last three years, that's 10 or 15 strokes per match right there," Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said.

Making matters worse, senior Morgan County, a stalwart defender on the Gators soccer team that advanced to the regionals, was behind when he came out for golf and left the team.

Those departures left the Gators in a rebuilding mode, but with four sophomores and two juniors, the outlook for next season is promising.

"We're just young," Puhalski said. "I've got everybody back. If they work on their games over the summer like they need to, they've got a couple of years to get better."

Sophomores Chris Mann and John Benson were the most experienced golfers, and it showed in their performances. Both players averaged slightly higher than 46.

Puhalski is sure those two players will get some practice in over the summer. Mann works at a driving range in Northdale, and Benson plans on working at the same range this summer.

Three other players, each of whom shot in the low 50s, plan on returning. They are junior Clay Daniels and the Scherer brothers: Dustin, a sophomore, and Eric, a junior.