Wesley Chapel's Hana Young benefits from playing a regional golf tournament Monday on the same course where she won her district title last week.
Just the same, when school ended Friday, she and her father sped to Silver Dollar Golf Club to squeeze in one more practice round.
"I know not to take region as lightly as I did last time," said Young, a junior who has missed the cut for the state tournament in each of the past two regionals after making a splash at states as an eighth-grader at Saddlebrook in 2000. "All I'm doing is preparing more, so I'm more aware of exactly what I have to do. I'm not putting pressure on myself, but I want to know this course, so I'm going over and over each hole."
When she transferred to Wesley Chapel for her freshman year, she came with high expectations, but in her first two seasons, her dominance was limited to Pasco County. She won the Sunshine Athletic Conference tournament as a freshman and sophomore and fared well in her district, but couldn't repeat her success in the more competitive regionals, where only the top two individuals move on to the state tournament.
Last year, she shot 76 at regionals, missing the state cut by two strokes. As a freshman, she had shot an 82 to finish tied for sixth. She won her district with a par 71, but to feel comfortable about her chances of returning to the state tournament, she wants an even lower number Monday.
"I know I have to do a lot better," said Young, who finished second in the SAC tournament two weeks ago, shooting a 76 to finish four strokes behind River Ridge's Heather Hagerman. "I have to shoot under par if I'm going to make the top two."
Young will likely have a tougher time making the top two at Silver Dollar than she would at any other regional. She's in the opening foursome, teeing off at 8:30 a.m., but consider her playing partners: Seminole senior Brittany Lincicome, a defending state champion who could turn pro after this season and won her district last week with a 71; East Lake's Brittany Jones, who shot a 76 last week; and Gaither's Ashley Kemp, who finished second to Young with a 77 at districts.
If Young can stay ahead of Jones and Kemp, she has a strong chance at finishing in the top two, though River Ridge's Hagerman, buoyed by a new confidence after finishing as Young's runner-up in the previous two conference tournaments, will also be battling to move on. Keeping up with Lincicome is another challenge.
"It's kind of intimidating when she's blowing it past you by like 30 yards," Young said. "It can get to you after a couple of holes of that, if you let it. If I can handle playing well in this, states should be something I can deal with. I have one of the hardest people in the state in my region. It will test me, big time."
Young's season started out "rocky," as she puts it, with low participation threatening the Wildcats' ability to compete as a team. Athletic director Annie McGhee took over for coach Gerald Savoy, and Wesley Chapel had enough golfers to play its season, albeit with Young 47 strokes ahead of her closest teammate in the conference meet.
Monday's tournament is one Young has waited for since the disappointment of last year's regional. Without too much pressure on herself, it's one she admits can define her season.
"I'm just thinking of this as another round, another tournament," Young said. "But I am just a little more geared up to play, too."
WHEN: Monday. Tee times start at 8:30 a.m.
WHERE: Silver Dollar Golf Club, Odessa.
WHO: Mitchell, which finished second to Seminole in its district last week; and Wesley Chapel's Hana Young and River Ridge's Heather Hagerman, who qualified individually.
THE SKINNY: Mitchell will need better than its district score of 369 to move on. Seminole shot 336 last week, and Plant won its district with 337. It's a three-team race for two spots, but the Mustangs need four strong rounds to stay in contention. Individually, Young and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome are the favorites to advance to the state tournament.
WHEN: Tuesday. Tee times start at 10:15 a.m.
WHERE: Lexington Oaks Country Club, Wesley Chapel.
WHO: Saddlebrook, which won its district last week; and Zephyrhills, which finished third.
THE SKINNY: Saddlebrook's district score of 300 was second lowest in Class A, trailing Boca Raton St. Andrew's. The Spartans' closest competition is Ponte Vedra Beach Nease, which shot 331 last week, but barring a meltdown, Saddlebrook will advance. Zephyrhills had the seventh-highest district score of the eight teams. Individually, Saddlebrook's Alyssa Olson and Stephanie Serur shot 70 and 71 last week, good for two of the six lowest rounds in Class A.
_ GREG AUMAN